More and more people are becoming vegetarian as a result of their belief that animals shouldn’t be mistreated on factory farms, or that they simply should not be killed and consumed for food. However, many individuals who avoid meat out of concern for the interests of animals, continue to consume and use other animal products. Many vegetarians, in fact, upon eliminating flesh from their diet, actually increase their consumption of eggs and dairy, two products that are the result of tremendous animal abuse.
It is a common belief among vegetarians that drinking milk and eating eggs does not kill animals, but nothing could be further from the truth. Commercially raised cows and egg-laying chickens, whether factory-farmed, or "free-range" are slaughtered when their production rates decline and they are no longer a valuable "commodity".
Vegetarians who eat eggs contribute to the death of 200 million male chicks each year. Since there is no such thing as a "layer rooster," these animals serve no purpose in the egg industry and are killed moments after hatching. Each year, millions of male chicks are gassed, crushed, ground up, or thrown into garbage bins to die of dehydration or asphyxiation. Most layer hens are kept five to a tiny battery cage, where they must stand and sleep on a wire floor 24 hours a day. Living under these horrendous conditions, a hen needs about 30 hours just to lay one egg. Even though a chicken can live five years, most hens are killed before their second birthday, because their egg production declines with age.
With cows, the story is similar. Just as hens lay fewer eggs as they age, dairy cows produce less milk, as they get older. Even though a cow can live twenty years, most dairy cows are sent to the slaughterhouse at age five. Additionally, the veal industry could never exist in its present form without the existence of the dairy industry. Each dairy cow produces about five calves during her lifetime, only one of which on average will become a dairy calf and replace her mother in the milking herd. The rest, (mostly male calves, since they can not become dairy cows) are taken from their mothers, sold for $5.00 each, and to be turned into veal. Imagine having each of your newborn baby stolen, only to have them chained inside a tiny crate for a few months before being slaughtered and eaten, all so that another species could consume milk and cheese from your lactation.
The flood of cheap calves created by the dairy industry allows the veal industry to survive in its current form. It may seem counterintuitive that milk, which is associated with birth and life, is also so connected to slaughter and death. The animal agriculture industry, however, is not in the business of feeding and housing animals who are not profitable. Many vegetarians are not aware of these facts. Once you become aware of the truth, it's hard to justify consuming animal by-products even if you do not eat the animals themselves.
Unfortunately, eating milk and eggs, and using animal by-products all comes down to the same thing: cruelty, exploitation, and death for animals. A compassionate person, who does not eat meat because of an ethical concern for animals, can not avoid the reality of their other choices or the consequences they have on the lives of animals. By refusing to purchase or use these products, we send a strong economic message that profiting at the expense of our health, our environment, and the lives of animals will not be tolerated.
If you're vegetarian because you care about nonhuman animals, you must stop eating, wearing, or using them and products made from them. If animals matter morally, we can not justify treating them as resources. Becoming vegan must be the moral baseline for taking those interests seriously. It's the only way to align your values for justice and fairness.
Vegetarians: Don't hide from the truth. Becoming vegan is the next step in your personal liberation, and it is a source of joy to spend your life living up to its ideal.
By the way, pictured up top are male chicks falling into a grinder. Representing no monetary value to the egg industry, they only lived for a few moments, but they were not trash.