By John Di Leonardo
This past week, people all around the world celebrated birth. Christians celebrated Easter — the rebirth of their Savior — while Jains celebrated Mahavir Jayanti — the birth of our 24th and final Tirthankara. While many Christians in western culture celebrate Easter by decorating, hiding, and then consuming eggs, those in eastern culture, especially Jains, abstain from eggs entirely and do not even consider eggs vegetarian. For Jains growing up in the West where eggs are in many products — even those marked vegetarian — and for anyone who cares about animals, it is important to understand why consuming eggs — even those from your own backyard flock — is incongruent with Mahavir’s decree that “All breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away” and the Old Testament Commandment that “Thou shall not kill.”
Eggs are a universal symbol of life and birth, however, humans’ fascination with them results in the deaths of more than 300 million chicks every single year. Male chicks, who are worthless to the egg industry, are suffocated or ground up alive at just one day old. Their sisters have the ends of their beaks cut off with a burning hot blade to minimize their ability to commit acts of self-harm or cannibalism in the tiny wire cages or filthy, windowless sheds they are stuffed by the tens of thousands. After about two years in horrific conditions, the hens’ bodies are exhausted, their egg production drops, and they are shipped to slaughterhouses, where their fragile legs are forced into shackles and their throats are cut. By the time they are sent to slaughter, roughly 30 percent of them are suffering from broken bones resulting from neglect, osteoporosis, and rough treatment.
When left alone in nature, red jungle fowl—native to India—lay about 10 to 15 eggs a year, and they—like all birds—lay eggs only during a particular breeding season. But “laying hens” (those who were bred from the red jungle fowl) have been manipulated—both genetically and situationally—to lay many more eggs in a single year, sometimes more than 300. Using hens in this way depletes them of vital nutrients, leading to vitamin deficiencies and sometimes emaciation. For some breeds, the stress on their reproductive system can be fatal. Whether you buy eggs in the store or raise chickens in your backyard, stealing their eggs comes from the same speciesism notion that makes the egg industry go round—that chickens need to provide us with something in order to be worthy of our concern. Caring for chicken companions without exploiting them typically means collecting their eggs and feeding them back to the birds to help replenish vital nutrients that chickens lose from laying so often and in some cases providing contraception (medical therapy in the form of a hormone implant placed underneath birds’ skin) for hens who are most susceptible to reproductive issues.
Please join me in making an Anuvrat, or small vow, to never consume eggs and if you already do not, make it a point to teach someone today about why eggs belong not to humans but to those who lay them. Thank you.
John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION). He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].
People Also Ask….
What does Moksha mean in Jainism?
Sanskrit moksha or Prakrit mokkha refers to the liberation or salvation of a soul from saṃsāra, the cycle of birth and death. It is a blissful state of
existence of a soul, attained after the destruction of all karmic bonds. Such a soul is called siddha and is revered in Jainism.