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Why it Matters that Ellen Degeneres Eats Eggs

On her TV show today, Ellen Degeneres, who is frequently mentioned as an example of a celebrity vegan, had a conversation with actress Ellen Pompeo about Pompeo’s backyard chickens, exchanging all manner of trivializing light banter. But the real humdinger comes when Ellen mentiones that “we” (presumably Ellen and her wife Portia de Rossi) “have neighbors that have chickens, we get our eggs from those chickens, cause they’re happy, they’re really happy chickens”:

And maybe those particular chickens are happy. And if they are, good for them. I hope that in addition to being protected from hawks and coyotes as Ellen worries about, they are also well cared for into their old age, just as a family cat or dog would be.

Maybe these chickens don’t dwell on the fact that their brothers, uncles, nephews, and other male relatives were virtually all killed at birth for being “useless”. Maybe they don’t dwell on the fact that many of their mothers, sisters, aunts, nieces, and other female relatives will die from lack of adequate health care, or due to dangerous housing or transport. Maybe they don’t mind that they were bred, raised, sold, and shipped as a commodity. And maybe they don’t care that humans collect and eat their equivalent to menstrual waste. (I’m just talking about rich peoples’ backyard chickens here; not even getting into the horrors that befall their factory-farmed cousins.)

And it seems a safe bet that Ellen’s neighbors’ chickens, happy or not, don’t know what veganism is. But Ellen should know better. If you don’t care how the word “vegan” is used, how it is defined, or what it connotes, then you can probably skip this post. (But then I also wonder why you’re reading a site called SuperVegan?) It’s entirely probable that Ellen is still, in balance, a positive force for lessening animal exploitation. But she’s emphatically not practicing veganism here, and doesn’t seem to be practicing critical thinking or informed common sense either. Her words here are dangerous: if viewers think she’s saying all this as a vegan, we’re running a very real risk of serious dilution of the meaning of the word.

I’m not quibbling edge-case semantics here. There are gray areas to veganism. There might even be gray areas to “vegan” people eating eggs, if, say they’re providing sanctuary for some rescued layers (though I still would never call that vegan). This doesn’t fall into any those gray areas. Is Ellen uncaring or just ignorant?

Ellen has attached herself to veganism and has acted as a spokesperson. In this role, I wish she’d either set a better example or step aside. A celebrity who eats animal products but works towards reforming factory farming can still be a force for good, and maybe that’s Ellen’s role. But an Ellen who doesn’t eat any eggs, and can explain why on national television, well, that would be even better!

In a post from “Going Vegan With Ellen” (a site I criticized when it launched, which has now been killed but had its content folded in with her main site), Ellen says

I personally chose to go vegan because I educated myself on animal cruelty. Suddenly, I realized that what was on my plate were living things, with feelings. And I just couldn’t disconnect myself from it any longer. I read books like “Diet for a New America” and saw documentaries like “Earthlings” and “Meet your Meat,” and it became an easy choice for me.

Maybe she just needs some more reading material, to realize that “happy” chickens almost always come from unhappy backgrounds, and that advocating for backyard chicken-keeping on TV is advocating for suffering, exploitation, and murder, even if it’s not of those particular birds.

Hat tip to Sarah E. Brown, who blogged about this on both Vegansaurus and her own site, for bringing this to our attention.

55 Comments

  1. Comment by

    Heather

    on #

    You never got to your point. Why DOES it matter that Ellen says eggs and calls herself a vegan? Where is the disconnect between the two.

    I agree, vegans don’t eat eggs, period. But your article does not explain why it is not vegan to take what chickens supposedly “give”. The article is lacking a critical ethical claim.

  2. Comment by

    Laura

    on #

    Ellen has attached herself to veganism and has acted as a spokesperson. In this role, I wish she’d either set a better example or step aside. A celebrity who eats animal products but works towards reforming factory farming can still be a force for good, and maybe that’s Ellen’s role. But an Ellen who doesn’t eat any eggs, and can explain why on national television, well, that would be even better!

    I think this perfectly highlights why it does matter. The term vegan really is restrictive, but it has a moral obligation for the restrictiveness and eggs are certainly not allowed within the definition. I wouldn’t have minded if she said “my neighbor has happy chickens” (not that I agree with the term, but it implies that chickens elsewhere are unhappy chickens, which is a step in the right direction in terms of educating the public) but when you imply that you’re eating those eggs, in my mind, you may not necessarily cease to be vegan (Say if it’s an anomalous thing which it doesn’t sound like in this case) but certainly you have failed in your self-appointed position as a spokesperson for veganism.

    I await a response from her, hopefully not defending her stance on eating eggs, instead denouncing eggs, re-educating herself and the public and continuing to be a force for good, because having her visibility and other’s is important for the vegan community.

  3. Comment by

    Tara

    on #

    Do you have any articles or information about where people get their backyard chickens? Is it possible to get chickens from a humane source?

  4. Comment by

    Minibobcat

    on #

    While it is true that chickens “give” eggs; they do not give them to humans. They lay for themselves, and those that are not fertilized are often cracked open and enjoyed by chickens themselves. The eggs are an excellent source of nutrients for the birds.
    A true vegan does their best to avoid any animal products because they are not for us; whatever an animal produces is for their own.

  5. Comment by

    sheila

    on #

    thank you for this surprisingly compassionate yet critical post. i remember reading a scathing article that railed into natalie portman for eating eggs while pregnant (forgot author). as an outspoken vegan myself, i laughed and agreed with the article but the reception when i shared it on facebook was aggressive. not sure if i will share this or not but i think your tone is a lot less alienating!

  6. Comment by

    scott

    on #

    “Is it possible to get chickens from a humane source?”

    No, that isn’t possible because there is no place for all those males to live so they are suffocated by the hundreds in big plastic bags or they go on a conveyor belt into a meat grinder.

  7. Comment by

    Bec

    on #

    Well, Ellen does state that she is vegan for ethical reasons. And therefore eating eggs layed by her neighbours chickens is ethical. Does it matter if Ellen therefore doesn’t fit the dictionary definition of a vegan? How many of us do? Not every single vegan in the world would eat the same foods (or indeed stop eating them), yet most became vegans for ethical (or indeed health) reasons.

    Ellen is a great advocate for ethical living and veganism, and does not condone cruelty. If she chooses to eat eggs from a crurlty free source that is her choice. Maybe don’t concentrate on the perceived “negatives” (she will confuse carnivores and they won’t know what a vegan is therefore), and concentrate on the positives – she is doing a lot for living a cruelty free life, and that’s wonderful.

  8. Comment by

    Sarah

    on #

    Thanks for the hat tip! I appreciate what you’ve written and agree.

  9. Comment by

    Vegan

    on #

    Really?? Who cares… they are PET chickens. That’s like being mad if your vegan neighbor ate it’s dog’s shit. Priorities people…

    Even if they were from tragic backgrounds, they aren’t now so it’s totally irrelevant. And NO, not all chickens are from factory farms, in fact my uncle has a bunch of chickens as pets that were born + raised through his family for generations. They will always be free-range, their eggs will never go to market, and they will live happy lives. So he eats some of the eggs? The ones that do not get fertilized just rot anyhow.

  10. Comment by

    Thessaly

    on #

    I agree that it’s confusing for member of the general public and sends decidedly mixed messages.

    But I think the thing to remember here is that not all vegans are vegan because they believe the use of any animal products is inherently wrong. I know some vegans would take issue with someone finding a feather a ground and taking it home because the feather is not *for us.* But honestly that is such a narrow and I think marginal view of veganism. I suspect that most of the vegans who aren’t on vegan blogs all day aren’t abolitionists in that sense. And for those people there is no inherent issue with eating an egg from a chicken that won’t go to slaughter and lives in “happy” conditions.

    Personally I go back and forth on the issue but still keep my vegan edge for consistency more than anything else. But I think the good Ellen does as a mainstream non-crazy vegan far outweighs anything else.

  11. Comment by

    Insufferable Vegan

    on #

    I have to say something about Thessaly’s comment: Huh???

    Most vegans who aren’t on vegan blogs all day don’t have an issue with people eating eggs? Really?

    And sorry, if Ellen eats eggs now she is not a “mainstream non-crazy vegan” nor any other kind.

    Thanks for reminding me why I never read comments.

  12. Comment by

    suzanne wakeling

    on #

    glad to clear up the confusion. Ellen is not vegan. Nothing confusing about this,,,just confused people.

  13. Comment by

    nathalie

    on #

    I heard the interview before I read this and got a real shock when I heard her say ” we get their eggs ” . Do not call yourself vegan and then eat animal products .I heard before in an interview with her new chef that she and portia were starting to eat burgers and things before he started working there . Sound like Ellen is not a good spokesperson for vegans and has no disipline ,no backbone, pissweak .

  14. Comment by

    Danette

    on #

    Why are people debating the issue? It’s very clear. If Ellen eats eggs, then Ellen is not vegan. I hope she sees this and stops claiming to be vegan.

  15. Comment by

    nathalie

    on #

    Oh, there were animal corpses in their burgers . I also heard that they wear shoes made from cows .

  16. Comment by

    CBB

    on #

    I’ve been vegan 6 mths, and a farmer 25 yrs. I have chickens (roosters too), the descendents of yard birds going way way back. They lay their eggs everywhere and drop them like turds and walk away. They don’t brood at all. On the rare occasion a chicken goes broody I let her brood, but it usually only lasts a few days. I don’t eat the eggs because I select not to, BUT I do share them with my needy neighbors with zero guilt. If I decided I did want eggs for something, I would totally eat my chickens eggs. They are spoiled rotten pets that eat out of my hand and don’t want or need their eggs. Ethical veganism is about protecting animals from suffering and abuse. I think Ellen should not eat eggs because they aren’t good for you and I want her to live a long and healthy life.. but I certainly have no problem with it on ethical terms if she is eating the eggs left by yard birds.

  17. Comment by

    ok

    on #

    I agree with other posters– if Ellen eats eggs, she is not a vegan.

    However, as someone who has rescued many chickens in a big city (found roaming the streets, having escaped the poultry truck), and found these chickens no-kill homes on farms, I believe there is an ethical way to eat eggs.

    Something people don’t realize about chickens: they lay a lot of eggs. If they are truly free-range (the farm I relocated my found chickens only shoos them into the barn at night to prevent foxes and coyotes from killing them), they lay eggs all over the damn place and forget about them. They choose to sit and hatch only a small fraction of the eggs they lay. (Similar to how most people with ovaries don’t have a child every month.) While, I choose to get my protein from strictly non-animal sources, I don’t see a problem with people collecting unwanted eggs and eating them, if the chickens are treated with care, respect, and are truly free.

    I think the problem with what Ellen said, is that 99.9% of chickens are not treated this way, and by saying she eats eggs, and providing an anecdotal story of some well-treated chickens, she makes it seem that factory farmed chicken, whether ‘free-range’ or not, is something that is acceptable, which it is not.

    A story or statement like that will lead others to think it’s okay to eat eggs generally, even though it is unethical to do so. Whether or not Ellen is a vegan or not is besides the point.

  18. Comment by

    Thessaly

    on #

    Just to clarify, my point isn’t that they do eat eggs, it’s that I think people are more open to the idea of eating eggs if felt entirely comfortable of the source of them. Would that mean that they should stop calling themselves vegans? Obviously. But what I’m trying to say is that a lot of people probably feel the same was Ellen.

  19. Comment by

    Stephen

    on #

    There is a simple explanation for this. Although I have been a vegan for a very long time, I found myself saying the exact same thing to a neighbour a few days ago. My partner is a vegetarian (and so she eats eggs) and whilst talking to a neighbour I said, “well we get our eggs from the allotment out back”. Although this statement was true, “we get our eggs”, the inference was wrong, as it is only my partner who eats them. This is perhaps what EDG was getting at. If she had said, “I EAT the eggs from ….” then that would have been a totally different, unambiguous and indisputable matter

  20. Comment by

    Kathy

    on #

    Some people may be strict vegetarians but others have a burger once a year, some may be strict vegans but others occasional animal prod. Many eat raw food diet but transitioning onto any diet is not always 100% and gungho people will be more critical of others who aren’t. If someone is vegan but eats eggs maybe should rightly be called ovo-vegan, like would call a lacto ovo vegetarian who eats dairy and eggs.

  21. Comment by

    Roman

    on #

    If you eat eggs, you are not a Vegan.
    By eating eggs you are supporting chicken-meat industry.
    The same, if you buy milk products, you are supporting veal industry. Consequences…

  22. Comment by

    unethical_vegan

    on #

    i personally look at eating backyard eggs as a minor transgression (e.g. like white sugar). i was far more disappointed to learn that ellen eats organic kale.

    http://www.pennelements.com/me

    millions of animals die slow agonizing deaths **ONLY** to grow organic kale! does ellen not know that there are more vegan alternatives at her local safeway?

  23. Comment by

    CBB

    on #

    @Roman.. consequences? Really? That sounds vaguely threatening. The only consequences are that her health will not be as good as if she refrains from eating any eggs at all. Any viewpoint that promotes radicalism or implies punishment for infringements has a lot more consequences than occasionally eating an egg. She is a grown-ass woman as we say down here. She makes the proper ethical choices probably 90% of the time, and compared to the average person, she’s doing great. And THAT is what we should look at. If she eats eggs on a regular basis (which by the way, she never said.. for all we know she gets them for her dogs) then no, she isn’t really a vegan. But I smoke probably 2-3 times a year and I still call myself a non-smoker. To occasionally engage in something that isn’t good for you doesn’t make you a bad person. It just makes you an imperfect human being.

    You are wrong about there being no ethical way to eat eggs. My chickens (which I had before becoming vegan) are not attached to the “chicken-meat industry”. There is no industry. My chickens will never be eaten by a human, though the foxes get one now and then. Our community of farmers gets together twice a year for a flock swap just to keep away the tragic health issues related to in-breeding. There is no hatchery. They run freely around my property, and they just plunk their eggs down anyplace that is comfortable at the time. Sometimes in the coop, but just as often in the seat of my tractor or in the grass catcher of my mower. And they never want to go back to them as they aren’t broody. Is it more ethical to leave them to rot then to give them to my neighbors who are so needy they go days at a time with nothing but fried cornmeal to eat?

    I have access to ethical eggs every day, free. I choose not to eat them not for any ethical reason, but because I had a spiritual shift and I just can’t bring myself to do it. But to condemn backyard egg eating on the basis of ethics really holds no water. Ellen never claimed to have a spiritual epiphany, only to wanting to do the right thing ethically speaking. Ethically, she’s on firm ground as far as I can see. Her health is what I worry about, and her spirituality is none of my business.

    I think it will be delightfully funny if she clarifies and we find out she isn’t eating them at all but feeding them to the dogs, or they are for her staff or something. Would be hilarious.

  24. Comment by

    unethical_vegan

    on #

    “Is it more ethical to leave them to rot then to give them to my neighbors who are so needy they go days at a time with nothing but fried cornmeal to eat?”

    Brava/o!

    I think one of the the most unethical aspects of our society is the tremendous amount of food we waste.

    “I think it will be delightfully funny if she clarifies and we find out she isn’t eating them at all but feeding them to the dogs, or they are for her staff or something. Would be hilarious.”

    I know for a fact that many of the vegan police (here and at vegansaurus) feed their cats animals. Pure unadulterated cognitive dissonance.

  25. Comment by

    Peace Loving Vegan Police

    on #

    I agree so much with Jason’s reasoning and it does well to anticipate many of the usual objections and apologetics; done so with eloquence.

    I’m very disappointed in Ellen.

    If you publically say that you are vegan, then be vegan, and while we can argue about all sorts of non-vegan things that every vegans consumes, knowingly or unknowingly, it’s fairly straight forward that if you say you are vegan, that you don’t knowingly “get” chickens’ eggs.

    Here’s the problem with backyard eggs or any happy animal products. If everyone wants to eat chickens’ eggs, initially with good intentions of choosing them from humane sources, eventually, you end up with people who screw up taking care of their backyard chickens and more importantly you end up systems of improved efficiency that begets factory-farming practices in order to supply the demand of everyone wanting chickens’ eggs. It’s that simple. That’s why vegans eschew these products on principal.

    Veganism is not simply a position against factory farming. It seeks to exclude animal exploitation, not just cruel exploitation. Donald Watson, the coiner of the term vegan, was an agrarian. He grew up on a farm. He could have eaten all that happy animal products he wanted to and never attempt veganism. But even in such an “ideal” system, he saw the big picture. It goes a beyond a mere utilitarian view of veganism, which wasn’t how Watson and The Vegan Society conceived it. Such a perspective was popularized by Peter Singer after veganism was already underway. It’s a useful conceptualization, and it appeals to a “big tent” advocacy of veganism. Hey, everyone wants to “reduce suffering” and “help animals” right? But it’s not the core philosophy. Veganism is an ethic that takes into strong account what happens when animals are viewed as commodities.

    The first practical problem of relevance is that if you want the reproductive secretions of female animals, the males become superfluous on any sized farm. Pointing to happy hens, while ignoring the surrounding circumstances as to how and why they are there, is what small farm animal husbandry advocates do, but as vegans, we “should” know better.

    My hope is that Ellen doesn’t eat the eggs herself, but maybe acquires them as a courtesy for nonvegan guests she may entertain. Still, not vegan per se, but can arguably fall under an edge-case example. I can at least appreciate a vegan bending the rules for social reasons. I have nonvegan friends and family who are kind enough to accommodate me and I do wonder if I should be flexible in reciprocating on some level. I don’t. I don’t think anyone expects a kosher Jew to serve pork of a, nor is a Westerner obliged to serve dog to Korean guests. But I can appreciate the impulse to reciprocate, especially if someone is more socially inclined than myself or whose career may benefit from throwing social events with guests’ expectations in mind (like Chelsea Clinton’s wedding, not saying I necessarily agree, but I understand).

    If someone wants to help animals by exploiting them kindly to eat things they don’t need to eat, then have at it, I certainly can’t stop you, but please reconsider labeling yourself vegan because it would be nice if the term actually meant something. And again, people are going to say what they want anyway, so don’t be surprised if I say what I want anyway in response. If Ellen was vegan except for getting sea turtle eggs, because you know, they just leave them on the beach; I think even non-vegans would take issue. A loose analogy, but does the job since I only needed to easily shuffle the species around to illustrate the point.

  26. Comment by

    Peace Loving Vegan Police

    on #

    @ unethical_vegan

    Whether plant foods are tainted with a higher collateral damage of animal deaths or trace amounts of animal ingredients isn’t in the same category as getting eggs from backyard chickens.

    If you understand veganism to be avoiding the killing of animals under all circumstances then that makes sense to you. But then, if that’s what you really wanted to pursue, you would be a Jain monk wearing a breathing mask and sweeping insects from you path with little brooms. I’m not dismissing Jains, I’m just illustrating that that’s not how vegans operate and for a reason.

    If you understand veganism to be avoiding exploitation of animals, like you know, how the people who came up with the term defined and continue to defines it, then while the collateral harm caused to animals is regrettable and is worth considering methods of reducing such harm, it’s tertiary to what veganism is. Yes, it entails reducing harm and avoiding cruelty, and having compassion, and helping animals, etc, but that doesn’t make veganism distinct from any other less-harm motivated ethos that most every meat-eater espouses.

    If your definition of veganism, especially the proposed method of reform, is indistinguishable from everything else, there’s a problem. If veganism means everything, then it means nothing. The primary tenant of veganism, what makes it unique over compassionate carnivorism and even vegetarianism, is to eschew the systems that assumes animals to be production units.

    Backyard chickens and factory farm chicken is a matter of scale, not of type or kind. Degrees of the same ideology, the ideology that veganism is essentially rejecting.

    If that sounds too radical or extreme, I’m sorry, but that’s what veganism is, in a meaningful definition that makes any sort of distinction from other animal welfare positions.

    Veganism is radical and extreme. Of course I don’t think so, seems like the nonvegan has far more justifications to work through, but in a culture where animal use is such a given, veganism is indeed questioning the unquestionable and offering as an alternative to the unthinkable.

  27. Comment by

    Peace Loving Vegan Police

    on #

    @CBB

    You are really misinterpreting Roman. The consequences are in the broad sense.

    As a non-smoker, I don’t consider you a non-smoker. I’m not judging you there, I don’t care if you smoke, but as someone who have never smoked a cigarette — just never appealed to me — I just don’t regard someone who smokes once or twice a year a non-smoker. And I don’t think I’m alone there, neither would most health insurance companies assuming you fill out the form honestly.

    But sure, there are plenty of self-described vegetarians who eat meat regularly; a good portion of them if the statistics are to be believed. That doesn’t seem like a good argument to redefine vegetarian as someone who eats meat regularly.

    Your anecdote is more meaningful as a typical new vegan trying their best to sort out how to manage their old non-vegan legacy lifestyle. Like looking into their closet and trying to figure out what to do with old leather jackets or shoes or wool sweaters, etc. Keep wearing them? Sell them? Give them away? Or what about vegans whose jobs rub up against some type of animal use, the food industry, or even the fashion industry? Quit right away? Keep working and ignore it? Try offering vegan substitutes to your employer? If a parent goes vegan, but his spouse and family doesn’t, should he keep buying and serving meat? Force them to be vegan? There’s no single right answer to these dilemmas. It depends.

    That’s what I get from your story. You used to keep chickens, now you’re vegan and you are doing the right thing by fulfilling your obligation to provide for them and you’re trying to figure out what’s best to do.

    But what you’re offering as an example doesn’t inform a broad vegan position. Should vegan organizations like Food Not Bombs source backyard chickens’ eggs to give to homeless people? That doesn’t sound quite right. When animals pass away at vegan run farm sanctuaries, should the bodies be donated to a food bank so it’s not wasted? Again, doesn’t sound right. If I’m served a chicken burrito by accident instead of a bean burrito, am I obliged to eat it so it’s not wasted? I wouldn’t, maybe some vegans would, but I wouldn’t expect any vegan to.

    I don’t want to argue with you. I don’t know what the right answer is in your specific case; perhaps I would give those eggs away myself, I have no idea.

    But there still seems to be assumption running in your language. By your tone, those chickens seem not to be doing anything for you, you feed them, let them stay on your property and the give nothing. You seem to want to keep breeding them, why? Your fellow farmers are all vegan too? They just keep breeding legacy chickens like you for the sheer benefit of the chickens? You view their eggs as going to waste if no one uses them. You assume your needy neighbors need higher quality animal food instead of lower quality plant food.

    You say that people don’t realize that chickens lay a lot of eggs, but that is not by accident, humans have selectively breed them for this “purpose,” and this is the same line we hear about how cows become uncomfortable if they are not milked while ignoring the history to lead up to that moment. Chickens just lay lots of eggs, cows just give milk, and horses like to run, so what’s the harm on betting on them? In all cases, there’s an industry there, or if you prefer a different term, an institution, one that a vegan position is attempting to address.

    If that sounds radical. It is. That’s the point.

  28. Comment by

    Insufferable Vegan

    on #

    @Peace Loving Vegan Police:

    You are awesome. Do you have a blog? Do you write about this stuff anywhere?

    btw, as far as the term Vegan Police goes, it seems like there are always a lot more people who have a problem with me not eating what I do not want to eat than there are vegans who have a problem with what non-vegans eat. And I usually say to these people: I won’t tell you what not to eat if you won’t tell me what not to not eat.

  29. Comment by

    VV

    on #

    “Vegan celebrities” are still celebrities–kind of detached from reality (and a bit annoying)… Vegans love to hear of another celebrity joining the team but celebrity lifestyle is whimsical. I’m not surprised. I remember Russell Simmons came to the non-profit I worked some time ago and in the same sentence said he was vegan but that he still ate his then-wife’s paella. I still get irked when I see his name included on vegan celebrity lists. As a vegan of 16 years, I could care less about a celebrity going vegan. Or going not-really-vegan. I never heard a vegan say, I went vegan because so-and-so did.

  30. Comment by

    CBB

    on #

    I’m not going to argue with you either. Many of your assumptions are just wrong. I won’t address it all, just the one part that actually matters to me. ” those chickens seem not to be doing anything for you, you feed them, let them stay on your property and the give nothing” They are worth the cost of feeding simply in destruction of ticks and mosquitoes, manure production and soil aeration. Anyone with an agricultural background knows this. Their affection and companionship doesn’t have a dollar value, but it is valuable to me as well. They are also my responsibility and I have a solemn duty to them, which I don’t know that you could understand. But from an agricultural standpoint, the fact I didn’t have to spray this year saved me $700-800, far more than it costs to feed them.

    My point, and I do have one, to borrow a line from Ellen herself, is that there is no good value in attacking someone for not being vegan enough, especially if you don’t know all the facts. Yes, I think if Ellen knew what I know in the way that I do, she wouldn’t consider eating an egg, as I don’t. And for all I know, she doesn’t eat them. I know plenty of “hardcore vegans” who eat white sugar, full of bones of the dead, something I never ever do, and yet have the audacity to judge others. And how many vegans have housecats, who are obligatory carnivores? Lots. Some vegans judge other vegans who do it for their health as not good enough. Some vegans judge other so-called ethical vegans for having pets, riding horses, or other animal interactions. Some vegans judge others who eat palm oil, use beeswax or other infringements. If I wanted to take the position that I could if I were that type of person, I could say that being an ethical vegan is a farce and no matter how strict your lifestyle, if you aren’t on a spiritual path you aren’t ‘getting it’ in any way shape or form.

    I don’t think ED should eat eggs. Maybe she doesn’t. Maybe if she does it is rarely. Maybe we don’t have the full picture. Maybe we could spend all this energy being very very grateful that she has inspired so many not to stuff the flesh of their brothers and sisters into their greedy craw every day. Maybe instead of patting ourselves on the back for the ascetic rigors of our lifestyle, we could be a little friendlier about it, as Ellen has been, and show people that it is a blessing from the earth that is endlessly variable, healthy and delicious, and not a burden. Suffering is not very salable. Perhaps that would actually encourage more into the folds for whatever reason, and once they are here, educate them on why eggs aren’t the best idea in the world? Perhaps, instead of worrying that someone might give up meat but still eat eggs because Ellen does, express joy that they gave up the meat, and lovingly educate on the semantics later.

    If being able to eat backyard eggs was the one thing that let someone give themselves permission to give up meat needed (as allowing cheese has been for some)… wouldn’t that be worth it? If one person said to themselves, hey I can be a vegan like Ellen because I think I could give up the meat if I can still have an egg once in awhile.. which is more important.. the word “vegan”, used a bit improperly, or the fact that another person has stopped outright murder and might be on a road to complete exclusion of animal products? I look at this whole egg thing as possibly a gift from Ellen and not a problem. If anything, it will encourage more to try it, not cause someone already vegan to start eating eggs again. If they were so mushy on that, then they would have found some other reason. What is more important, ownership of a word and being hardcore, or getting people to stop killing, even if it is in stages?

  31. Comment by

    the voice of reason

    on #

    Wow, I am astounded how much fighting has ensued over this on lots of different websites. And the funny thing is, not one of the people arguing is arguing against veganism! It’s all people who care deeply about farm animals and try to be conscious of their suffering as much as possible.

    Here’s what I think: eating eggs is not vegan by definition, whether it should be that way or not. From what we actually know for sure (which isn’t a lot) about animal consciousness, animals probably don’t want to be kept in captivity at all, but chickens already in captivity, particularly “happy” ones (whatever that means), probably don’t care either way if you eat their eggs. Vegans are getting really angry that people who share most of their values are threatening their worldview by saying it’s okay to eat eggs sometimes. People who are vegan except for eating backyard eggs, or furnishing backyard eggs for others, are getting defensive because their lifestyle is being attacked. Who cares if someone disagrees with your lifestyle, whether they are saying you’re not good enough or saying you’re too radical? They aren’t going to change, so why write a pompous diatribe against them?

    BTW, I’m a practical vegan. I would never eat backyard eggs but I do eat breads and pastas (which are usually vegan) instead of starving if the ingredient list isn’t available (but not things like desserts, which are almost never vegan). And I do eat regular sugar. Attack me if you want, but if everyone in the world refused to eat bone-char sugar and it stopped being produced, but everyone continued to eat meat and animal products, do you know how much animal suffering would be stopped? ZERO. That is why I think it’s silly to require vegans to give up buying white sugar (and pretty much all processed foods by extension).

    But like I said, we all care about farm animals here. Let’s all take a breather, get off the internet and volunteer at the nearest farm sanctuary. Or if it’s more your style, share some vegan food or graphic factory farming descriptions with your non-vegan friends and family.

  32. Comment by

    the voice of reason

    on #

    By the way, I am not talking about the blog, which I actually agreed with. I am talking about the hostility on both sides of the comments.

  33. Comment by

    unethical_vegan

    on #

    But then, if that?s what you really wanted to pursue, you would be a Jain monk wearing a breathing mask and sweeping insects from you path with little brooms. I?m not dismissing Jains, I?m just illustrating that that?s not how vegans operate and for a reason.

    oh my. i guess you are not aware of the american vegan societies adoption of “ahimsa” as a founding principle. and yes…this is a jain/hindu/buddhist concept.

    i have been a do less harm (to human beings, animals, and the planet) vegan for a long time. AR-centric veganism is actually a more recent “type” of veganism. early “donald watson” era veganism was primarily based on whole foods and health arguments. and i can assure you that many fellow vegans in the 80s were whole food types.

    i think its interesting that you use an “omni bingo” false dichotomy to claim that my “type” of veganism is not feasible. doing less harm to the best of our abilities and knowledge applies not only to animals but also to the environment, human rights, and health.

  34. Comment by

    unethical_vegan

    on #

    gah apologies for the typos (e.g. society’s).

  35. Comment by

    unethical_vegan

    on #

    It seeks to exclude animal exploitation, not just cruel exploitation.

    millions of fish are killed solely to grow organic vegetables on an industrial scale. i personally view this practice to be far more exploitative than eating an occasional “happy” egg.

    i want to also stress that i agree that eating eggs does harm to the environment, human health, and encourages exploitation. nevertheless, i am absolutely not willing to join the current ellen degeneres inquisition when i also make choices that harm animals.

  36. Comment by

    M. Butterflies Katz

    on #

    Vegans don’t use animals. Period. Not for food, clothing, products, entertainment, experimentation, breeding, their bodily secretions, labor, etc. We don’t see other animals as a commodity, a resource, a thing. They might eat their own eggs. I think we should leave the eggs for other species of animals that need to eat animal products; humans don’t. We live beautifully as vegans. Other species of animals are someone’s – not somethings that humans can exploit and use. We must change our perception of what an animal is. They are sentient, perceptually aware beings that should not be thought of as here for human use.

  37. Comment by

    Jani

    on #

    The chickens don’t give the eggs. The eggs are their ova, to become living chickens, and belong to the chickens, not to humans. Eating chicken eggs is stealing from the chickens. It’s unethical and un-vegan. Ellen is a hypocrite.

  38. Comment by

    AnimalDefender

    on #

    I think you should have explained the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian. How vegan’s don’t wear leather, endorse animal labs or eat eggs etc. everything Ellen does, she wears Nike leather shoes, those oxford things, suede boots, eats eggs and endorses animal labs… a vegetarian will still eat dairy and wear leather.
    Instead of getting down on Ellen, it boils down to the true meaning of a “vegan” and clear ignorance on her part, she just needs more of an education…but until then she should just say she’s a vegetarian. :)

  39. Comment by

    Julie

    on #

    What I dislike so often about the vegan community is how dogmatic it is, so much like a religious right. I have been vegan for three years and recently rescued some ex-battery hens as pets to give them a good home. I’m currently attempting to figure out what to do with their eggs, i.e. feed it to the dogs, feed it all back to them(which has yet to work, as so far they are not eating them), etc. This is how I stumbled on this post and so many others like it.

    Sometimes I am very ashamed of the vegan community, as so many in it like to sit in judgment of others–especially other vegans and vegetarians. It is no different to me than hearing someone say, “You’re not a Christian!” Or whatever religion one practices. As if because one “sins,” one is no longer part of the religion. As if Ellen eats an occasional egg from a well-cared-for hen, she can no longer advocate vegan ideals.

    Sure, Ellen may have been careless, but you have no idea how many omnivores may have been watching and started thinking, “Hey. Wait? How are laying hens treated?”

    Vegans and animal welfare advocates should be building each other up, not tearing each other down, or passing judgments, or revoking or giving labels. It makes the vegan/animal welfare community seem silly, even stupid, and entrenched in unhelpful dogma.

    Rather than take a seat on soap box, take a look at all those people who have rescued hens, who have said no to the industry–whether they eat eggs or not–and applaud them for the good work they are doing for individual creatures, as well as for informing countless friends and family members about the industry cruelty through the act of taking in the hens.

  40. Comment by

    CBB

    on #

    @Julie, I agree with you completely. I also have chickens, some rescues, some from before I became a full time plant eater. I don’t personally eat their eggs; neither do they, so the neighbors get them free. In order to get a normal chicken to eat it’s own eggs you have to boil them and usually mix them with something else as it isn’t natural for them. I grew up around chickens, had them all my life and never have ever seen a chicken eat eggs, even broken ones. I have heard of it in cases of extreme neglect, starvation, or overcrowding, but it doesn’t typically work that way with well adjusted ‘pet’ chickens. However, an interesting fact is they will eat another dead chicken and waste no time about it. It is nature’s way of keeping predators away.

    I can’t say I’m ashamed of the vegan community, but I don’t call myself a vegan anymore, despite the fact I am more rigorous about my diet than most, and would go hungry before eating an animal product knowingly. The same way that I believe in a higher power, but I would never name myself a member of any religious group. The reasons are the same, the few obnoxious ranters make the whole flock (pardon the pun) look mean. Vegans and everybody else should be all about building up each other, loving each other and the world. We all make mistakes, and even what is a ‘mistake’ can be simply a matter of perspective. I applaud every person who consciously makes a choice to avoid animal products, even if that only happens for them once a week.

    This is the danger of shaming someone who has slipped up. If that person has a strongly independent type A personality, the reaction is sometimes to whip back in the opposite direction. I know this because I have that kind of personality and have to fight doing things that would harm myself to ‘show’ someone else all the time. It is part of what I’m learning in this lifetime. It is immature, but when it is part of your nature, you have to consciously work around it. My worry is push her too hard, and try to shame her, something she has had enough of in her life, and there will be a broken rubber band effect. Screw you then, I’ll eat steak. She’s pretty evolved so I don’t think it will be that extreme, but to see her start picking up other things in her diet as a silent F_ YOU, yeah, I could see that.

  41. Comment by

    Gary

    on #

    I appreciate Ellen’s advocacy for animals and the steps she’s taken. That said, here are some of the problems with backyard eggs.

    It is virtually impossible to have truly humane eggs. Modern laying hens’ wild cousins in Southeast Asia lay about 20 eggs in the spring, then their bodies get a rest. Modern laying hens have been bred over centuries to grossly over-produce eggs, which takes a toll on their systems and increases the risk of painful prolapses and reproductive cancers (we see the latter at the animal sanctuary where I volunteer). Birds under these conditions may be relatively happy and taken care of with diligence and even love. But they suffer from being engineered for human use.

    Backyard hens – while faring much better than battery cage hens, no argument there – usually come from factory farm hatcheries that grind up or suffocate newborn male chicks. The hens are usually shipped when one day old, which of course entails suffering and the inevitable injuries and fatalities. They are deprived of a doting mother and protective, engaging father. Since sexing chickens is inexact, some shipped “hens” end up being roosters, which very often are not allowed in backyards due to zoning; if they’re lucky, they end up at already-overburdened shelters (which typically don’t know how to care for chickens), if not so lucky, they’re abandoned (we’re able to rescue a fraction of those). And of course, since anyone in a place zoned for chickens can buy chickens on a whim, we know that a certain percentage will be neglected or mistreated.

    So even the best case for eggs – at least in this part of the world – is rife with cruelties and problems.

    Extolling the joy of eating eggs tends to promote eating eggs in general. And as we know, the vast majority of these eggs come from horrid factory farms. True, someone doing this could add this caveat (e.g., “please don’t buy eggs or egg products from a store or restaurant”) after talking about their “happy eggs,” and that would help, but from what I can tell that is not usually done.

    There are a lot of gnarly edge issues with veganism, as with any situation where you’re trying to live morally but have practical limitations, and we’re only human so we have our fears, bad habits, emotional attachments, etc. I try my utmost not to judge the person: I haven’t walked in their shoes, and I’m no model vegan. But at the same time, I think it’s good to try to be accurate in determining the consequences of our decisions.

    I also think – in general – that compared to, say, risking your cat’s health if he won’t eat a vegan cat food, quitting eggs is easy. Most people have eggs as a breakfast dish and as a baking ingredient. Replacing the latter is a piece of cake, pun intended, and there are a million excellent vegan recipes on the net and in books. For those who like (or could like) tofu, tofu scramble can become their new “scrambled eggs.” It’s a magnificently versatile dish, and with a bit of practice, the tastebuds can adjust and end up liking the vegan replacement more than the original.

    Other uses of eggs include sauces, glazes, and egg salad. There are decent, usually easy-to-make-or-buy vegan alternatives for these. Replacing eggs in the diet – *for most people* – is pretty easy. Once you get past the psychological barriers, most people who do this find that it’s easier than they thought it would be and rarely if ever crave eggs.

    For those who use hens for insect control for farms, you may want to join the Veganic Agriculture Network, which consists of farmers and gardeners who produce crops without using animals or animal products. They are always happy to help people in transition.

  42. Comment by

    ana morris

    on #

    Ellen, if you eat eggs you’re not vegan DUH!!

  43. Comment by

    Bhawna

    on #

    How can you be so sure that ellen gets those eggs for herself? Maybe it’s for her cats? Hahaha
    All I am saying is thatyou don’t have the right to judge someone, ESPECIALLY if you don’t even have the clear picture of what is actually going on. Tsk

  44. Comment by

    Kaiamum

    on #

    There’s is a huge line between vegetarians and vegans and vegan advocates won’t let people forget when this line gets tripped on or blurred. I eat a “mostly” vegan diet but wouldn’t dare call myself a vegan because it wouldn’t be right. I think there needs to be a different category…possibly a new term for people like Ellen, me, and millions of others who walk this line. We all have the same goal, to eat a humane diet where there is the least cruelty imprint. Who knows what Ellen does with these eggs, the good she does for animals and people with her position is beyond what most of us can dream of.

  45. Comment by

    Josh

    on #

    I think you should be happy that Ellen is even a vegan, considering she converted many people. Regardless whether she eats eggs or doesn’t, she has supported the vegan community tremendously and has really done a huge part.

  46. Comment by

    cathy

    on #

    Herbivore, for those who do not eat animal products, but may still use honey, wool, leather, white sugar…

  47. Comment by

    Michelle

    on #

    I read things like this and I’m so happy I’m not a vegan. Ellen has done an amazing amount of good with her talks about vegetarianism or being a vegan regardless of whether she eats eggs or not. She’s a big reason why I became a vegetarian and I’m happy that I did.

    Strident articles like this, however, do nothing but a disservice to vegans and vegetarians and play right into the hands of those people who think vegans and vegetarians are just militant.

    Why not just be happy she’s promoting a healthy life, for both the people not eating the meat and the animals not being eaten. She’s not perfect, as I doubt you are either, but she’s far, far, far better than most.

  48. Comment by

    Alisha

    on #

    This is the only place I’ve read about Ellen eating eggs and I was wondering if it was a slip (two friends talking quickly with eachother and instead of saying ‘My neighbors chick’s eggs are cruelty free’ she put herself into the situation) because she’s got a whole new vegan part of her site. And I can’t find a statement from her.

    I want to say this about vegans and eggs.
    1- If you eat eggs you are vegetarian or you could call yourself ovo-vegetarian I suppose.
    2- The problem with consuming ‘humanly raised eggs’ or ‘free range eggs’ is that there is NO way the chicken would exist if you didn’t want the egg. It wouldn’t be pecking around in your back yard or in a warehouse if you didn’t want something from it. AND what do you think happens to the males? After the backyard hens stop laying they are killed.

    Very few people continue to support animals after they stop being productive and even fewer find chickens interesting companions. Although Ellen is obviously interested in catching as many of these examples as she can its a small operation she’s shepherding and telling a bunch of people that they can be cruelty free by force breading chickens will only result in the males being killed right away and the hens to die when they are no longer useful.

  49. Comment by

    Lynsey

    on #

    Ellen is a Covergirl spokesmodel who wears leather shoes. I’m afraid her vegan credentials were blown out of the water on those two facts alone before we even get to what she eats.

  50. Comment by

    Andy

    on #

    I disagree, but respectfully so. I have 10 chickens where I live, they stay because they want to. If they wanted to leave they would, they have free access to anywhere in the world they want to go or could go. I’m not even sure where 6 of them came from as they showed up one evening in the barn during a storm and simply have chosen not to go back to wherever they came from. I take the eggs from the barn because they would rot and soil their nests if I didn’t. I tried leaving them thinking they would eat them and they didn’t. When I saw them eating grain from my bird feeders I began to feed them directly because I thought they must be hungry. They come and go as they please and I consider the eggs as a trade for the grain that I plant, raise and harvest for them. I wouldn’t plant, raise or harvest the grain if they weren’t there. The original 4 hens were already occupying the barn when I moved in. I think they were simply abandoned by the previous owner of the property. I have a couple of dogs that have been keeping predators out at night so I feel we all have a symbiotic relationship and don’t feel a bit guilty about eating the eggs. They are welcome to stay as long as they like, they’re very amusing, friendly and funny birds that give many hours of companionship but I would never dream of killing one to eat. I haven’t eaten anything I had to kill in a very long time, but I have and do consumed flesh as it is natural for my species to do so. I have salvaged deer carcases that were once beautiful creatures that ran onto my homestead after being shot by hunters, arrows and bullet holes still ripped into them. I eat roe that I can salvage from the pond, and the chickens, dogs and I love roasted cicadas, hookworms and grasshoppers. But I have never used the term ‘vegan’ to describe myself which seems to be the main issue here. I do however object to the opinion that I want something from them therefore that is the reason for their existence and that somehow makes me guilty of animal cruelty for eating the eggs. I eat nothing that has not been freely given by nature and I work very hard to make it an equitable trade. Every non-human creature that resides at the place I call home, has every option to literately walk away and never come back if that is what they choose. One day even my body will return to nature for living creatures to consume what I have given them in exchange. It is a natural thing, no one creature has the right to condemn that which nature has deemed appropriate and natural. Perhaps this isn’t the way things are done where you live or maybe it’s not even possible. But I simply refuse to accept the blood guilt being pushed by, (what was the term? The Vegan Police?)simply for eating the eggs that these chickens abandon. Thank you for the opportunity to post.

  51. Comment by

    Ali

    on #

    I’m technically an “ovo-vegan” but I don’t call myself that, because labels are childish and narrow minded. I just eat what I eat (which happens to be vegan + eggs).

    Besides, your argument is akin to saying that a homosexual male who finds one woman attractive isn’t really homosexual anymore.

    Open yourself up to the world, and allow others to practice what they believe is right for themselves, without labels and confinement.

  52. Comment by

    Cara

    on #

    I agree that we should be accurate with the labels we use. I call myself a strict vegetarian because Although I don;t eat dairy & eggs, I will wear second-hand wool, leather and use down (second-hand. Also, I have carnivores as companions & believe it’s only fair to feed those in my care a species-appropriate diet. I understand other animals are harmed for those in my care, but not feeding my companions a species-appropriate diet would harm them. They are dependent on me & don’t share my ethics.

    Ellen should not allow herself to be called vegan BUT I disagree that there are on humane sources of chickens. The Wildlife center near me often has chickens that need a home and although we’re not allowed to have chickens in my city, if we could, I would take those chickens, give them a supremely happy home & eat their eggs with no ethical qualm and also feed the eggs to my cats & dog. The chickens would live a normal lifespan with appropriate veterinary care, diet and love. Eating their eggs would not harm them.

  53. Comment by

    Jessica

    on #

    Wow, I have just become a vegetarian two weeks ago and I can’t believe the pettyness I encounter with vegan/vegetarian folks. Ellen is bringing a lot of great attention to eating no meat. In fact she is the reason me, my boyfriend, and my mother, stopped eating meat immediately. I saw on interview where she talked about being vegan/vegetarian Wtv, and she recommended watching Earthlings. I did and since then haven’t ate meat.

    I eat eggs but I only buy free range hand picked eggs from a local farm. Now I see not much wronge with that. And in Ellen’s case who cares. You people are really focusing on something so minuscule when she does amazing things in regards to awareness. Plus those dang chickens are happy! I may stop eating eggs because I still can’t guarantee the life of the chickens I get eggs from…. But for Ellen! she’s great! Leave her alone. Go spend your time getting famous so you can define Vegan your way. Otherwise shut up and go pick on those who are really causing pain and suffering like you family members who still eat mystery meat. Come on we all have them! Ellen…plz.

  54. Comment by

    Jane

    on #

    I saw this episode and was surprised. Then on another show Drew Barrymore cooked Ellen a pasta dish made with egg pasta. As I understand it the term Vegan means you don’t eat anything that has come from or made of an animal. Eggs are part of a chickens ‘menstrual’ cycle – they are ovum. The thought alone is a turn off. So yes I agree, if you are going to call yourself a vegan then know what your calling yourself.

  55. Comment by

    Madoza

    on #

    Egg eating conscious eater who also gets eggs from a neighbor with a “happy” chicken. WHO CARES? I think it sucks that I eat produce that farmers kill millions of bugs off of and it sucks that car tires have animal stuff in them. But vilifying people who are just trying to do the right thing over what name they call themselves is about as silly as saying no, you’re not black because you have a white grandmother.

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