Everyday Ethics

Short answer? Yes, I will.

An animal rights activist group, Mercy For Animals, broughtto light a video of unwanted male chicks at the Hy-Line Hatchery of West Des Moines,Iowa, being tossed alive into grinders because they are “of little value.” Thenews article I read said:

The group said that tossing malechicks, which have little value because they can’t lay eggs or be raisedquickly enough to be raised profitably for meat, into grinders is commonindustry practice and that an estimated 200 million male chicks are killed ayear. United Egg Producers, a trade group for U.S. egg farmers, confirmed that.

The Humane Society says that virtually all egg farms, even thosethat sell cage-free eggs, get their hens from hatcheries that kill their malechicks.

 (Read the rest of the article here.)

In the video, which you can watch below, the narrator isquoted saying: “Workers roughly handle the animals, with little regard fortheir welfare… You can help end this needless cruelty by adopting acompassionate, vegan diet.”


Here’s my personal musing on this obviously emotional issue(and I hope I won’t get egged for it): 

If you’re already a vegetarian or vegan,this video and the information about what happens to male chicks will clearly notpersuade you to become a carnivore. But if you’re a carnivore (or more properly,I guess, an omnivore) I don’t really think it will sicken many into going veggie or vegan. Or will it? Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t foresee masses ofpeople giving up their morning omelets because of this unsavory informationcoming to light.

For me, as a lifelong meat-eater, watching the video didn’tparticularly strike a nerve. Why? Because I already know helpless animals dieevery day to feed me. And I know that the food industry has ‘expediencypractices’ that allow it to cheaply feed millions while turning a tidy profit.I suppose I could demand that all male chicks be sent to live out their days incomfort, or else be raised for rooster meat elsewhere, lest I boycott the egg industry. I could go that route,if my moral code demanded it (and if I thought it would work). But as for the method of killing – to me, itseemed no worse than the other things we do to the animals we consume. Am I aheartless chick-slaying so-and-so?

Yes, but at least I’m consistent.

I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t have standards in place to prevent malicious cruelty. There’s no need to torment the creatures we feed upon. The part of the video that shows the chicks scalded and dying on the hatchery floor seems like something we should work damn hard to prevent. By all means let us go about the business of processing our meat as humanely as possible. Yet saying the killing of male chicks by grinder is a reason to change your established patterns of eating is saying you were never comfortable being a carnivore in the first place. That, or you’re only comfy eating animals raised on your own family farm. 

Are you willing to make the enormous lifestyle changes it would require to accommodate that? And even if so, do you believe killing some animals in some ways is OK (like when you’re definitely going to eat them for breakfast, and when you do it “kindly”), but “wasting” others (i.e., the male chicks) via grinder is morally reprehensible?

Overall, this is one time when I see an ethical issue as a question of absolutes: Do you eat meat? Yes? Then deal with the realities. Meat is murder, if only of a lower life form. You kill to eat. Don’t pretty it up for yourself. No one is giving the cow a pedicure before they send it to the slaughterhouse. If you can’t stomach that, do like the video says and become a vegan.

Agree, disagree? Have another angle for me to consider? 

Subscribe to receive updates from Everyday Ethics or follow us on Twitter! 

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus