I had a fierce debate today with a friend at the local pet shop over vegetarianism - she's an ovo-lacto veggie - over if an egg is alive.


Bad idea... ;-)


We parted friends but it got me to thinking - IS an unfertilized egg alive?


The obvious answer is, of course not, but is that the whole answer? I don't know.


I did figure out why ovo-lacto vegetarianism is nearly as bad as omnivorous me though. The O-L veggie claims to have the moral high ground that no animal died because of them - but this isn't true.


The hens are kept in horrible conditions and bred specifically to lay-lay-lay until they are slaughtered for animal food and probably recycled to themselves. Worse, the cow only provides milk for its offspring which we then take away and slaughter: so indirectly, the demand for milk creates (almost) as much suffering for baby cattle as the meat does. One could even argue (just for fun) that the calves are a bi-product and us meat eaters are simply providing a service for the milk drinkers.


I value my testicles too much to posit that one to her though.




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oh noooo not the slippery slops again..... don't you hate them.....  


I think it could be a matter of well-being - in terms of morals or rights and wrongs....


We need to consider the well being of humans and animals and balance the whole lot.... for the greatest well being of all - although I wonder if there would be some sort of grading there regarding types of living things.... eg that vegetables are lower on the scale than insects perhaps....?

I'd be interested to find out how they get around the problems I mentioned. I know for sure they don't do that with beef cows. As for "traumatic and unnatural separation", again a human concept. Happens all the time in nature. Many animals (ie. mice, rabbits, robins, sparrows, etc.) have babies in the double digits every year and only on average 2 have to survive in a parent's life time to keep the population steady. Baby deaths are more common than survival with many species. Seems cruel to us, but is just the way it is in nature...they simply continue to have more til some survive. As the saying goes..."nature is neither kind nor cruel, just indifferent"

Do the numbers, it's basic math. Just the other day in one of our open sheds I found a nest full of dead baby robins. Where the parents heartbroken? Suppose one can't say for sure, but you can be sure they simply moved on and started a new nest elsewhere. For another example, I raised a few batches of pug dogs, and my little pug girl (Sugar) would raise them to only 6 weeks (think because of their teeth) and then I'd have to take over. And she seemed VERY happy once they were gone. I'm sure it was also that she got more attention again, but nevertheless.


And to really address your question (and maybe to get a bit back more on topic about "is the egg alive"), this has even been shown in human (history). Back in tribal times, children weren't considered truly "human" or "alive" until they hit a certain age. Anywhere from 3 years to adolescence depending on the culture. One can only presume this was the case, because babies regularly died, and it's a way for an intelligent, and just as important, social species such as ourselves to cope. As a result, when a child got sick, it was "put down" so to speak, sooner than an adult would be.


You also answered your own question, by admitting many humans are "indifferent". You don't think animals are too? Although we'll probably never know, but I'd say, most likely yes. And most certainly for the non-social ones. Cows for instance are more of a herd animal as opposed to "social". They (including sheep, deer, antelope, ect) don't socialize and help each other like humans, chimps and bonobos. In fact, if a predator comes, it's basically screw my neighbour. If they were truly social, a large enough herd of deer or whatever could easily take down a lion or a wolf pack. they don't, they even leave their babies behind...they'll have another or 2 next year.

I meant animals are indifferent to each other of the same species for the most part, with only few exceptions. Most animals fear humans and rightly so.

I grew up on a beef farm, Rudy and my Uncle raised beef cattle and buffalo for around 60 years just getting out of the business this fall.  Baby calves stay with their mother until the mother weans them or they weigh about 400 lbs.  Usually the mother cow kicks the baby in the head until it quits nursing altogether.  At about 400 lbs, the farmer separates the cows and the calves.  Most of the cows, go "oh happy day" and trot off happy to be free.  Ladies just imagine something that weighs 400 lbs with 1/2 or more thick skull hitting you in the bosom over and over.  You'd kick them in the head, too. It doesn't actually hurt the calves.  They have very thick skulls.  Also, by that time, the cow is usually expecting again and it is too hard on her to nurse.


The calves do cry constantly for about a week, but then they stop.  We always called them bawlers.  Beef cattle are often, but not always castrated shortly after birth.  Sometimes farmers will wait until they are older, but really it's a lot easier when they are newborns than when they weigh over 400 lbs. Try throwing down a 400 lb calf and cutting off his specials with a straight razor and you'll see what I mean.  It's not like they say "hey, this is fun".  They resist.  Pretty strenuously as I remember.


That I know of, very few beef farmers sell young bulls for veal, because cattle are sold by the pound.  You want that animal to rack up as many pounds as possible before you sell them.  Steers make good money.  Most people want to keep them. 


Very few heifers are kept to have babies.  Often they have problems or don't live through the first birth.  Only the best animals are kept for breeding purposes.  I've never seen a cow live over 12 years.  I understand when farmers kept steers until they were oxen, they could live quite awhile, but having a baby every year is hard on an animal.  Unlike dairy cattle, beef cows are often bred to the largest bulls around, so they will give birth to large calves.  Size is very important in beef cattle.  Giving birth to consistently over large calves is hard on the cows, so they don't seem to live as long as dairy cows where calf size matters a lot less. 


Unless the cows find some creek in a rainstorm (which they often do because they are dang stupid) to give birth in and the calf drowns, mostly the calves live. 


Rudy, it's dang hard to keep a calf alive that hasn't received any colostrum milk.  I've done it with my grandpa, but even a master farmer like my grandpa lost calves who had not had any colostrum milk.  You try to find a dairy farmer who will sell you some or you spoon feed the calves raw eggs and milk replacer.  Usually these abandoned calves where offspring of the cows who found the worst spot on the farm and the worst day of the year to have a calf, so they're not only rejected by mom, they are usually wet and half frozen, too. 


Back to chickens, their eggs won't hatch unless they are properly incubated - either by the hen or by a commercial incubator.  Not all hens are the motherly type or even in the mood to sit on eggs every time they lay one.  Chickens may be domesticated farm animals, but they are still birds.  The rules of caring for an egg are still the same.  No care.  No chick.  That's how it works. 

Grace, I think this is maybe supposed to be addressed to Stephen? I know all this and was trying to explain it to him. Thanks (^_^). I not only grew up on a beef farm, but continue farming to this day, which is why I said I know beef cows raise their young. Currently, besides grain and hay, I have elk. But thanks for going into detail...I've just been worrying, I've been getting to "wordy"...good job!


Also, yes "colostrum" was the word I was looking for earlier...thanks again.

Especially chickens,  My chickens were true free range chickens as in they had the run of our entire farm which was good because that was an especially bad year for locus and every other farm was stripped bare, but ours.  My hens abandoned ship almost all the time.  Maybe they would sit on the eggs for a day or two, but they pretty quickly said "blow this for a lark, I'm outta here".   I only raised chickens for a year.  Chickens are mean and everything loves a chicken dinner.  They're also not too smart. If true free range chickens can't figure out to roost in the trees, they become somebody's chicken dinner pretty quick.  I lost a few to foxes and raccoons before they figured it out. 


Chickens are mean.  They poop a whole lot and they are just generally messy.  And they stink.  Thank goodness someone wants to raise them, because I like eggs and a chicken dinner, but I do not like chickens.

Too funny! No you can't do "real" free range chickens. Something will eat them. I raise mine on the grass, but they do need a fence to keep the coyotes out and need to be put in at night or the great horned owls will make a meal of them here. Trees don't help. I like them though. They're great mousers. In fact they seem to want to kill anything that can't kill them (including each other). They always want to do battle with my 6 lb min pin dog. Quite the sight...pisses off my dog to no end.

Somewhat ironically in all of this, I actually have a friend who was a dairy farmer. Thanks to the supermarket price wars (over milk in particular) he no longer farms cattle. I'll have to ask him for a definitive answer on this one.


He farms people now - but they look after themselves.

I'm going to say a hen's unfertilized egg is alive. It was alive at one time, at what point did it die? Sure, it will never hatch, and putting it into a refrigerator will kill it, but when it comes out of the chicken it's very much alive. Is there a developmental biologist in the house? PZ Myers is one, but getting a hold of him can be tough.

Well, I would think that it all depends on your or her definition of "life". Personally I consider even plants to be alive for as long as their chemical reactions are ongoing. I don't think that an unfertilized egg is technically doing any chemical reaction to speak of, not in the sense of progress of complexity in cells and numbers so you could say that they are not alive.


I'm not going to limit my food choices based on the definition of a word, though and I don't understand people who do.


I value my testicles too much to posit that one to her though.


Been there, don't go there man. I could show you the scars but you'll have to proof you're over 18 first. Scary stuff...

Off topic but, if we were "foreigners" would we think it's disgusting to blend the egg of a bird with the milk of a mammal, heat it, and eat it? what about drinking rat's milk? They're mammals. How about shooting an arrow into the neck of a cow, collecting it's blood, and drinking it? These are questions I like to think about.



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