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Dear Ellen: Let Us Tell You Something About “Happy”

By Jasmin and Mariann — November 28, 2012

Dear Ellen,

Oh, Ellen… Our Ellen…

When you went vegan, and became an outspoken ambassador for animal rights, we kinda fell in love. We didn’t really want to be celebrity stalkers, and sheesh, we’ve sure had our hearts broken before by some big names — but with you, we just couldn’t help it. Let’s face it. We pretty much loved you already, and your awakening to what was going on with animals, and your willingness to speak up about it, was enough to make us swoon. It was enough to make us think, okay, things are going to happen now. We’ve got ELLEN on our side.  First you did it for us as dykes. Then you did it for us as vegans. No longer were we on the outside looking in — we had Ellen.

And you weren’t one of those friggin’ health vegans, either (no offense, Rosie). You were true blue for the animals. We were even publicly criticized for not attacking you when, despite your seemingly firm commitment to ending animal cruelty, you remained the spokesperson for Cover Girl — a company that continues to employ horrific animal testing methods. It was contractual, we surmised. Kind of like a rich and famous person’s version of not throwing away an old, leather belt. Her relationship with them needs to be phased out. Or maybe she’s working on the inside to turn things around! Ellen still does so much for animals; let’s not throw her under the bus when we might not have the full story.

So to other people, maybe your recent foray into animal exploitation doesn’t seem like much. Maybe it doesn’t seem inconsistent, given your previous blind spot. Maybe it doesn’t seem like anything at all. But when you casually mentioned on your show that you now eat eggs, because they come from your neighbor’s yard, and the chickens are surely “happy,” we gotta tell you, our hearts broke. (What’s next? Are you going to tell us you’re sleeping with men?)

We vegans are frequently accused of anthropomorphizing a bit too easily, so forgive us for assuming, but, in the first place, what makes you think that your bird neighbors are happy?

Do you think that the hatcheries where they were almost certainly born are happy places? In fact, the hatcheries where most people get their “backyard birds” are generally the same exact places as where factory farms get theirs. Where chicks are born in machines without ever seeing their mothers, and where male chicks are ground up alive because there’s no use for them.

Do you understand that chickens have been bred and cross-bred and over-bred to lay eggs, and way too many of them? So many eggs that they’re calcium-deprived?

Do you think that your neighbor who so generously gives you the eggs of these hens will take care of them once their egg production wanes, which can very easily leave her with a bunch of pet birds for years before they die? Or might she slaughter them? If your neighbor continues to keep backyard birds, she will wind up with dozens — or hundreds — of animals.

We’re wondering if you’re OK with the fact that, in areas where roosters are forbidden (which is most places that allow for backyard birds), the male chicks just wind up in the garbage, literally (just as they do with every single other type of egg production, commercial or otherwise)? How does that work where you are?

And speaking of the boys, do you realize that when people or stores order chicks from hatcheries, the boxes arrive with male chicks who were just put in there as packing material (who will then be killed, since roosters aren’t allowed)?

Maybe it’s not the case with your probably fabulously wealthy neighbor, but are you under the impression that everyone who keeps backyard birds gives them all the room they want, lets them perch in trees, lets them lay their eggs wherever seems good to them? Of course not. They need to be in coops, so people can take their eggs from them. Sometimes those coops are really, really small. And they have to be protected from predators, since just by having chickens, we humans are subjecting them to dangers.

But let’s say you, or someone on your staff, actually did all your research, and know all of this. Let’s pretend that this neighbor of yours is as good for chickens as one can get. Our question is, so what? Are you trying to act out your own rich person’s food fantasy, or are you trying to change the world? It is obviously impossible for everyone to keep hens, or to even have a backyard, so what are you really saying here? That it’s OK for you to not be vegan, because you can afford “happy” hens? But the rest of those poor schmucks will just have to suffer without?

And that brings us to the crux of the matter. Because the thing that really breaks our hearts is not just that you gave in to your desire to eat eggs, but that you even thought you had such a desire in the first place. For us, and we thought for you, being vegan is actually what we want to be. It’s not second best. It’s not giving up things. Vegan is abundance, it’s compassion, it’s the future, and it’s delicious. As far as we’re concerned, being vegan is the very best part of us. We are so not looking for an excuse to go back to eating animals, or even the reproductive byproducts of animals (seriously, yuck!). And we thought you felt the same. We thought you had joined us on our journey to not just embracing a new way of eating, but a new way of living in the world, a way to truly understand what it means to be “happy,” both for the animals, and for ourselves. In fact, we thought you had embraced your role as a leader of this movement.

So perhaps some people might say “it’s just a few eggs,” and others would say “there’s no reason to make a big deal of it.” No way. It’s a very, very big deal. But we’re not giving up yet. We really hope this is just a bump in the road, and that we’re not breaking up. Please come back…

For the animals,

Jasmin Singer & Mariann Sullivan

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(71) Readers Comments

  1. November 28, 2012 at 11:52 am

    Very well said. She seemed to really "get it". I think when she discovers the impact of her actions, that people will take it as permission to eat eggs, she will retract it. The Cover Girl issue always made me have my doubts about what could compel her to work against her values but I still think she will come around to understanding there aren't really exceptions that are good for animals.

  2. November 28, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Glad to see you've written about this too. It's blowing up on Queer Vegan Food and Vegansaurus, and I think you're right, a lot of us gay vegans are really feeling let down about it. I appreciate these lines: "For us, and we thought for you, being vegan is actually what we want to be. It’s not second best. It’s not giving up things. Vegan is abundance, it’s compassion, it’s the future, and it’s delicious." Keep up the great work, you two!

  3. Alison C.
    November 28, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Wow, Jasmin and Marianne - very well said. I sure hope that Ellen sees this letter. You will be directly sending it to her, I presume? No one is perfect and she is still such a new vegan, so maybe she hadn't even considered all of these issues before, and this letter could certainly open her mind to them. Thanks for writing it!

  4. November 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    First of all, did she say that she is only eating those eggs at home, or does she also now eat baked goods and restaurant foods and such that contain eggs too? Because if she is doing that, then arguing whether those particular birds are happy is just a moot point and she is just a rich person who wanted to start eating eggs again. But either way, I don't get why she's different from the other celebrities who keep going vegan as a trend and then go back on it? The vegan movement is happening in the trenches with regular people like you and me helping the masses of regular people go vegan. Rich people and celebrities cannot be and are not a part of that.

  5. November 28, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I get the point, and it's a good one. Some backyard chicken folks DO think about these problems, however. It's possible (even easy, if they do their due diligence) to get chicks from a humane source, where the male chicks are not discarded, where they have not been bred to over-produce eggs. Some backyard-chicken folks have chickens as pets and wouldn't think of discarding them when they stop laying. They even take their chickens to the vet when they are sick. Whether or not this is the case with Ellen's neighbor, I have no idea. And it's fishy that she only seems interested in the eggs. It would be interesting to see if these issues are something Ellen has considered.

  6. Alana Vegan-Rican Danois
    November 28, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Thank you so much for this. I love you gals <3

  7. November 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm

    Oh, ELLEN! I am so disappointed! Thank you Mariann and Jasmin for putting into words my own feelings, indeed. I am so saddened by this!

  8. November 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    "Vegan is abundance, it’s compassion, it’s the future, and it’s delicious." Words to remember and live by!

  9. November 28, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I was heartbroken to hear about this. Thank you both for writing a truly amazing letter. You summed it up perfectly -- I'm not missing anything by living and eating according to my values. Being vegan truly is the best part of me -- thank you for crystallizing that for me. And, ever the optimist, I can only hope that Ellen will jump back on the bandwagon.

  10. Melissa
    November 28, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Shabti, I respectfully disagree on this point: "It’s possible (even easy, if they do their due diligence) to get chicks from a humane source, where the male chicks are not discarded, where they have not been bred to over-produce eggs." How? Where? Male chicks are always discarded. I cannot think of a single source where every single rooster chick is kept alive. The vast majority of chicks come from hatcheries, hatcheries kill rooster chicks or use them as packing peanuts. They are not financially viable and are, thus, not kept. Even small farmers/breeders will not keep the all those roosters. Statistically, 50% of chicks hatched are boys... that is a lot of "useless" males. Hens that exist now are already genetically bred to overproduce eggs. Maybe if you're doing some really obscure heritage breed, that's not the case. However, most folks aren't raising that type of bird because they want eggs... and those birds aren't the sorts of layers they expect. Plus, money and limited availability. Backyard farming is NOT good for hens. Having hens that are adopted rescues, not purchased from hatcheries or breeders, as companions is good for hens. Their worth isn't dictated by their egg production, the eggs are just a byproduct of having a hen as your buddy. And those eggs then make wonderful treats for the girls to help replenish all the energy and minerals they use laying. They are not for us to eat, at any rate.

  11. November 28, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Well written article with lots of excellent points!

  12. November 28, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    She said they GET eggs from their neighbor... never once did she say her and Portia EAT them. Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe her live in maid eats eggs or her other live in help, or maybe, like me, she uses eggs for her dog's diet, so that's why they're GETTING eggs from the neighbor? I use eggs in my animals raw food; I don't expect my pets to go vegetarian or vegan just because their mom has chosen to just like I can't force my husband to go vegetarian or vegan. I don't think we should rush to judge and bash someone until we know the facts of the statement since the word eat was never used. Sorry, but that's just my opinion!

  13. Rebecca Stucki
    November 28, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    "For us, and we thought for you, being vegan is actually what we want to be. It’s not second best. It’s not giving up things. Vegan is abundance, it’s compassion, it’s the future, and it’s delicious. As far as we’re concerned, being vegan is the very best part of us." YES,YES,YES and YES!

  14. November 28, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Sigh. You have a point. But I think rants like this do more harm than good. I've been veg for 6 years and posts like this are why people are scared of me. Ellen did more for the movement with one hour on tv than any post like this will do.....

  15. November 28, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Great letter! All I would add to this is the story of one of my hens who yearns to be a mother even years after her oviduct was removed due to complications with egg laying, a tragically common problem for egg-laying hens who have been so overbred that their health suffers in so many ways, no matter how well they are raised. I am pasting a portion of it here for your convenience: "Doris had major surgery over a year ago to save her life. The surgery consisted of removing her oviduct and a mass of infected egg material that was blocked in her abdomen. One third of her body weight was removed during the surgery. It was successful. However, she never lost her desire to be a mother. Just the other day, I saw her turning with her beak the egg just laid by another hen and roosting on this egg for close to an hour. And she’s been doing this on a daily basis over a year since the surgery. These actions express an expectation that the egg contains an embryo and will eventually hatch into a chick if properly nurtured. Mother hens are known to turn their eggs in precise positions 30 times every day to ensure the healthy birth of a chick. Today, egg laying hens do not raise their young. Instead their eggs are taken from them and hatched in artificial incubators. As a result, hens are deprived of the very thing that comes most naturally to them: motherhood. Hens have been mothers for at least the same length of time that the earliest fossils of chicken ancestors have been found: some 50 million years ago! Our engineering of the hen’s biology to maximize egg production has doomed her body to a variety of life-threatening conditions such as the one that afflicted Doris. And in the complete absence of maternal care, her chicks are deprived of their most basic physiological and psychological needs. If Doris were living on a farm under these circumstances, she would not have received veterinary care and would have instead been shipped off to slaughter at the tender age of 2 — the prime of life for a hen, who otherwise would live at least 10 years, if not 15 or more. And that is the reality of the commodified hen in all kinds of egg farming today — from factory farm to small family farm. Doris’ survival remains for me a symbol of what’s possible for us in terms of our relationship with and knowledge of these complex and fascinating birds that I have learned so much from."

  16. November 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    Watch a few minutes of this presentation by Humane Educator James Wildman where he calls eggs "hen periods":

  17. November 28, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    I don't understand what all the commotion is about. Ellen never "got it", and was never vegan. Being vegan is about more than a plant based diet, and Ellen continued to participate in advertising for Cover Girl cosmetics, who are known animal testers. She also promotes Halo, an animal based, non vegan pet food. I wrote Ellen a letter calling her out on the Cover Girl issue, and advised that if she would drop her Cover Girl endorsement, and donate her earnings to an animal charity or sanctuary, THEN I would consider her a vegan. Of course, I received no response, and the rest is history....

  18. November 28, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Thank you so much for addressing this Jasmin and Mariann. I was so, SO disappointed when I heard this news and saw the video clip of Ellen making these comments. One of my first thoughts was actually hope you guys would discuss this on the podcast, and now you've said everything I could have hoped to express in this letter. I do hope Ellen sees it and it makes some kind of difference or brings forth more discussion/explanation on her part. Thank you!

  19. November 28, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    This post gave me goose bumps. You so powerfully expressed the reasons why our vegan hearts are broken. I know that I feel incredible disappointment in Ellen who chose to use her celebrity to be an advocate for veganism. As far as I'm concerned, she really botched it up! Thank you for your excellent words!

  20. November 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Wouldn't it better to check the life and practices of the farm where she gets the eggs before attacking?

  21. November 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Excellent commentary. Your post comes from a true place of compassion and trying to understand... like many of us... 'why'?! I do hope she addresses this for the community very soon.

  22. Seymour W.
    November 28, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    +1, article. But. I'll tell you "why": because she's a welfarist. She believes it's OK to use animals if they're treated a certain way. We know this because she supports welfarist organizations (Farm Sanctuary) and campaigns. They say it themselves: they are working to end animal cruelty (so we can exploit them without feeling too bad about it), not to end animal exploitation. Like PETA, they would go bankrupt if animal exploitation ended, so they don't want people to go vegan *if there's another way* (which we all know there isn't, because male chicks and male calves and raping cows and killing etc.). I knew this about Ellen from the get-go so I wasn't expecting much, and it doesn't even surprise me that she would eat eggs. It's disappointing that any "vegan" can be welfarist and still call themselves vegan. Vegan *means* you reject animal exploitation, not that you don't want to hurt animals but also don't want to stop.

  23. November 28, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    First, Ellen didn't say she or portia eat eggs, maybe they are for somebody else! Second, you don't know her neighbour or how he treats his animals or are his chickens happy or not! I know Ellen is all about compassion, kindness and treating others how you wanna be treated, so although this letter has some valid points about misusing chickens, attacking ellen to get your message across before knowing all the facts is neither kind nor compassionate practice.

  24. November 28, 2012 at 7:22 pm

    Dang.... Dang.... Dang...

  25. Countess von Vegan
    November 28, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    Thank you for pointing this out and ideally sending this letter to her or to her "vegan" website. I was pleased to hear of her change in life, and like a lot of us raised an eyebrow to Cover Girl; it may have been contractual but even baby vegans know that P&G is bad. I won't hover on that subject because regardless she's in a contract with P&G. The eggs? I have often asked myself as I have wanted to have land and animals, if I did would I partake of their bounty? Eggs, milk etc. and the answer has always been no. Is it a waste to toss eggs that did not hatch? I don't know, but these animals would be companions and rescues, who am I to take anything from them? I WANT to be vegan and I have been for a decade now. I have NO desire in my body for animal products or biproducts in the least. You have made such a good, non threatening, non militant point that hopefully she will see the big picture and end the egg eating. Let's face it, eggs and milk are like the gateway drug to an addict...once you start it's only a matter of time til ethics go out the window.

  26. November 28, 2012 at 8:58 pm

    I truly love the salient points of this post, as a long-time vegan (ethical, of course) -- one who feels that I have lost nothing by being vegan, and gained everything. And, while I have appreciated Ellen's promotion of veganism, I have been deeply troubled by the Cover Girl endorsement. (Really? Torture animals to look perty?) She seemed to have such traction, and no doubt has influenced many with the promotion of veganism. So, this 'news' is sad, indeed. I caught an episode of Rachel Ray where Portia & their chef were guest cooks, and Ellen skyped in. In response to Rachel asking something, she very spontaneously (a bit bolder for her than normal), said: "I'd rather eat cardboard than go back to eating animals." She seemed to realize how boldly she said that, and followed with something like: "That's me personally." But, I will say this -- raise this question. If being vegan is about objecting to the exploitation of animals, what about rescue farm animals? I know sanctuaries that have rescued laying hens, which still naturally produce eggs. They feed the eggs to the other animals. But, would you feel morally wrong to eat those eggs, or drink milk from a rescued cow, in private? Not publicly, where you'd seem to promote that activity or send that message. Many probably would not even have the desire, because we've long since moved past those cravings. Frankly, I wouldn't want to have to wean myself from good cheese again. Just curious what others thing about the animal sanctuary scenario where the behavior is natural and the animals will enjoy their remaining days freely at the sanctuary.

  27. Jack Carone
    November 28, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    I feel that there is some missing reasoning here which is leading to conclusions that are not necessarily accurate. As a vegan for 27 years and a hardcore activist for the same amount of time, I can see a scenario, probably including this one, where eating eggs violates no one, although I don't believe it is a healthy practice. It seems that no one here really knows where the neighbor hens came from, and wherever that was, that is no reflection on Ellen or the birds. Neither of them chose nor orchestrated the circumstances of the birds' birth. So, If we have a hen who in the moment is living a relatively natural life, that is, with others of her kind, an opportunity to perform natural behaviors, walking around, pecking at insects, taking a dustbath, etc., who is well fed and protected from the elements and predators, we have no abuse. Since we have already established that this is a neighborhood where roosters are not tolerated, there is no male to fertilize the eggs. Therefore, there will be no more birds born at all, let alone males who will have nowhere to live or be cruelly killed. If the eggs are left alone by the humans, they will eventually rot, so picking them up and eating them does not harm the bird nor the non-existent life in the egg anymore than leaving them on the ground. It is also groundless to assume that these hens will be abandoned when not productive--they could be, but you don't know the feelings or intentions of the birds' guardians--chickens are not expensive to maintain, it is even possible that your fallen idol Ellen would adopt them--you just don't know. Neither Ellen nor her neighbor is responsible for the crimes of commercial animal agriculture, they can only be held responsible for their actions toward these birds, and eating lifeless nutrients which would otherwise rot is pretty mild stuff to warrant all this hand-wringing. Just to check my thinking, I recently ran this subject by a colleague whom no one would dare call exploitative, and he agreed that this is a neutral act. To consider this an offense under these circumstances is very dogmatic, adhering to a definition of veganism as diet, rather than one of respect and a policy of doing no harm. If you can show me the harm that is being done, I might agree, but this reaction is akin to drumming someone out of a club for violating the rules posted on the back of the clubhouse door, without examining whether the intention and the spirit of the written words has really been violated. I thank you for caring so much about animals, as I do, but this news should not disillusion you as much as seems to have done. Peace.

  28. November 28, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    Beautifully written!

  29. November 28, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Vegan defined: the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals. According to this definition, no matter what she was using the eggs for (as some people wrote they may have been for someone else), she is not vegan. The fact that she spoke publicly about the use of the eggs also states that she ACCEPTS the commodity status of animals, again, not vegan. It is so sad that we have lost this celebrity spokesperson for veganism. I hope Ellen has a change of heart and comes back to the light ; )

  30. November 28, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    Of all the "celebrity" vegans who have made a huge thing about being vegan and then go back to consuming even one animal product, Ellen is the biggest disappointment. The Cover Girl endorsement has always bothered me, but I'm hoping that contract will run its course and end. She is a big, public supporter of farmed animal protection/advocacy organizations, so she knows all she needs to know. It's sort of like being pregnant .... you're either pregnant or you're not. In this case, she needs to make up her mind if she is vegan or she's not. Then, be truthful about it.

  31. November 29, 2012 at 5:46 am

    I run a farmed animal sanctuary ( which is home to a large number of hens rescued from backyard situations as well as caged facilities. I am saddened to hear that someone who proclaimed to be vegan and an advocate for other animals, partakes in the utter misery that chickens in the egg production industry endure. Every egg laying hen had a brother who was killed by being gassed or ground alive because males are not useful in the egg production industry. The fact that hens are bred to lay eggs greatly compromises their natural health. Naturally, and in the wild, hens lay two clutches of eggs a year for the purposes of rearing their young. Hens bred for the egg industry lay an egg every day. This is an onerous task, comparable to a human female having a menstrual cycle and childbirth, every day. An egg is quite a heavy object relatively speaking to the very light and thin body of the hen who lays it. We regularly find blood on the eggs at Eden where the hen tore while laying it, similar to the way women can tear during childbirth. That is one of the reasons that eggs are washed prior to being given to humans to consume. Laying eggs depletes the hen’s body of calcium and other nutrients essential to her health, resulting in conditions such as osteoporosis and broken bones. Evidence from x-rays at Eden Farm Animal Sanctuary show that the hens who were carried from their cages to us by their legs had broken hips and legs, and some of them had bones that broke and healed while in their cages. Can you imagine the pain of an untreated broken or fractured bone? Can you imagine the struggle to mind your broken limb from being jostled by your frustrated comrades? Can you imagine the pain of struggling to food and water on a broken foot or leg? There are a varied of painful and fatal conditions that hens endure as a direct result of being bred to lay eggs in unnatural quantitites. These include egg binding where the hen is unable to lay an egg either because it has a soft shell or it has become stuck somewhere in her oviduct or clocoa. Hens going through this experience huddle with ruffled feathers and refuse to eat or engage with their friends. They appear to suffer enormously. If the egg breaks prior to being laid the hen will suffer an infection called peritonitis. This causes illness just like any infection a human suffers. The hen’s temperature rises dangerously and she will feel exceptionally hot to touch. Her abdomen will swell with fluid in response to the infection leaving her unable to walk or move. Eventually her eggs will ‘cook’ in the heat of the fluid. As the fluid builds she will not be able to eat or drink as her crop will be squashed by the pressure from the fluid. Her lungs and other internal organs also become squashed and she will gasp for air. One can only imagine the pain she endures. With respect to the notion that 'backyard' hens are happy hens, at Eden we have a very high rate of illness and death among hens rescued from backyard situations. I agree with the points made in the article above, about the suffering that these hens endure when they have reached the end of their egg laying lives and are deemed no longer useful to the humans who exploit them. I have suffered extreme physical pain that could not be relieved by medication. I could not countenance inflicting such pain on another feeling, living being. I do not eat eggs because I witness the horrible suffering that hens endure because we breed them to lay eggs in unnatural quantities in a way that causes them great pain. I also do not eat eggs because I believe that the female of all species has rights and the hen has a right to her own eggs. They belong to her. They do not belong to us. I hope Ellen, and other egg eaters, see my post and reconsider. We do not need to eat eggs. We have no right to eat the eggs of another being. Hens suffer if we do. Sandra Higgins, Director Eden Farm Animal Sanctuary ( Matilda's Promise, Animal Rights & Vegan Education Centre

  32. November 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    I really do admire the conviction and dedication you've all expressed in your responses to this letter. Every day I strive to make good decisions that I can be proud of. That said, I would just like to voice a slightly different opinion. Sometimes, vegans can be slightly critical of each other, and it makes it difficult to feel part of a community. I know this isn't always the case, but sometimes we hold each other to a standard that is difficult to meet. Ellen is just doing her best, like we all are, and learning lessons along the way. Sometimes I find out that I haven't been a "perfect" vegan and I make and adjustment. I'm sure this has happened to all of us. I think it's awesome when anyone wants to reduce the amount of animal products they consume - and I want to be a voice of encouragement, not criticism.

  33. LadyVader77
    November 29, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    I can think of a source of humane eggs- rescue. It's what I do. I've worked with various rescues over 20 years and it's pretty common to take in chickens who've escaped live markets or people's back yards. We take in those chickens & give them a home. They still lay eggs for a while. Sometimes years. Of course that's not their "purpose" anymore; now they're purpose is to enjoy life & companionship. Regardless, they lay eggs. We feed the eggs to other rescues. Dogs and raccoons particularly love them. It IS possible to source humane eggs with due diligence. Rescue.

  34. November 29, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    Erin, I agree. We don't even know for a certainty that Ellen eats those eggs. This isn't a religion, there are no penalties for sinful behavior so to speak. Ellen has made a lot of mistakes, and who hasn't. But she's done a lot more good than harm. Personally, I have chickens, and roosters, which I had before becoming vegan. They are free, totally free, and never locked up. Their coop doors stay open, and they lay eggs everywhere, in the coop and out of it, and only very rarely ever attempt to brood them. When they do, they lose interest after a few days. I don't eat the eggs, but I give them to my needy neighbors with a completely clear conscience. When they are done laying, that's fine, I'll still feed them and care for them. If a hen goes broody I'll let her set her eggs, and raise her babies. So from an ethical standpoint, I don't care if Ellen eats backyard eggs, because it CAN be done ethically. I don't choose to eat my own chickens' eggs because I made my decision based on my own spiritual insight that doesn't apply to anyone but my wife and me. And it only applies to my wife because she selected to follow me in this. But Ellen made her choice based on ethics, and I can see why from an ethical standpoint, it doesn't bother her. It doesn't bother me, and it isn't my place to criticize someone who saves hundreds of animals a year simply by not eating flesh. As far as that goes, I rarely even identify myself as a "vegan" because of criticism that I am not vegan enough, regardless of the fact that I have neither used a non-vegan product or consumed any animal products since making the switch. Perhaps it is adopting the label that was Ellen's real mistake. Anyway, I am confused on why Ellen would casually disclose egg eating in the way that she did, knowing that it would probably cause a fuss, but when it comes down to it, we don't own her. Praise her for what she's done right, don't condemn her for a perceived error.

  35. November 29, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Love, love, love what you so beautifully said...

  36. jiggly puff
    November 29, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    OMG u seriously cant compare someone who has pet chickens in their backyard to a chicken factory.... yes humans bred them to lay lots of eggs and thats what they do so lets not let delicious nutrient rich eggs from happy chickens go to waste. I believe animals have rights to do what they want naturally and backyard chickens sure as hell do!

  37. November 29, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    i learned from this article, thank you :)

  38. Danielle Legg
    November 29, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    So it needs to be said: No one person needs eggs. Bottom line. It's not about welfare, it's not about "bigger cages" it's not a "welfarist vs abolitionist" thing. No one NEEDS eggs, so why, regardless of where they are coming from, are they on your plate Ellen? It's lovely when someone has backyard chickens, it is. But they can use their eggs, in fact, THEY need them. No person does, ever. Plants offer protein, spices offer flavor... so what's your excuse?

  39. November 29, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    This is the precise reason that veganism scares non-vegans. Critical, radical ranting and throwing a good person under the bus because they aren't 'perfect'.

  40. November 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    @Erin : Point well made. But, there is a difference between "falling of the wagon" while awaiting a bus outside a Ben & Jerry's ice creamery on a hot summer day, and endorsing a regular habit. I think that most people are objecting to the latter, while still maintaining "vegan" status and say promoting a vegan cookbook. (Frankly, the Cover Girl endorsement is so egregious that the eggs really pale in comparison.) It really is simply a case of being influential and sending a confusing message. (We all have battled those dumb "...but do you eat...?" questions.) She should simply state that she is vegetarian and continue to promote animal rights, however people come to support that in their personal/public ways. Being flat broke, there are times when I want to fall off the wagon and buy a 99-cent eyeliner pencil at a local shop verses ordering the $18 vegan version online (with eco ramifications). So far, I just have not been able to bring myself to do that. So, please, everyone enjoy my boring naked face and my glamorous spirit!

  41. November 30, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    I believe in animal rights. They have the right to their own bodies and their own bodily secretions. I don't believe they were put here for human use, any more than women were put here for men or people of color were put here for white people. Chickens and all fellow sentient animals are rights-holders, but those rights are being ignored by humanity. No matter how well or happy the chicken is treated, we have no right to violently assault them nor do we have a right to take their eggs, which sometimes they eat. I say, leave the eggs for other species of animals that need animal products/foods - for them it would be better than killing other animals. We humans, not only have no requirement to eat animal "foods", an egg is detrimental to us; being the highest source of cholesterol. It's not human food. So, it's not about treatment - for me - as much as it is about that other animals and their bodily secretions are not food or commodities for humans.

  42. November 30, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    I don't think this letter isan attack on Ellen. It's a conversation. Language is important and veganism represents something; that animals are not here for us to use for our own purposes, even if we treat them well. Having role models in the public eye is great and we hold them to a high standard because the world is watching and what they say may be the only info on being vegan some people hear. Doesn't it drive you crazy when people say they are vegetarian and eat chickens and fish? Being vegan has a learning curve, Ellen's allowed some bumps in the road. It would be weird not to say something about it though since she's been so 'out' as a vegan.

  43. November 30, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    I love my rescue hens so very much and if anyone ever tried to hurt them I would give my life to save them, but what should I do with the eggs they lay? I'm wondering if I can give them to neighborhood people who refuse to stop eating eggs so that they won't buy any and try to talk to them into changing gently, what do you think? I'm so very upset at what happens to chickens and cry often for their horrible suffering. They often die from laying illnesses and I grieve for each child, but what do I do with the eggs that they worked so hard to lay? It seems like a part of them and I want to respect all the work they went through to lay it, feeding them back to them seems sick...throwing them a way makes me cringe. I just hope they will stop laying someday.

  44. November 30, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    But she never said SHE eats them... she did say "we get our eggs from" --- I heard that the eggs are for her mother. Before we condemn her (and which one of us is perfect anyway??) can we wait to hear what she has to say?

  45. unethical_vegan
    November 30, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    "friggin’ health vegans," donald watson, please save me from your followers.

  46. November 30, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    We have a couple of rescued hens living out their days happily and making an utter mess of the yard. I don't think it's right to assume that all backyard chickens have been purchased from a supplier, as many have been adopted, the same as a cat or a dog from a shelter. Ex farm hens need homes too, and they will naturally lay eggs anyway, so there is no point to wasting them. The chickens eat their own eggs as well, when they can crack the shell. Besides being vegan, I wouldn't want to eat the eggs because it's just a bit gross really

  47. November 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Beautifully written. I hope she reads your letter. It is confusing that she seemed to have been well educated on the issues, but apparently not at all.

  48. November 30, 2012 at 3:25 pm

    Ellen did NOT mention on her show that she "now eats eggs"!.Please watch the video and hear what she actually said. It's so unfair to be ascribing something to Ellen that she didn't say. Ellen has single-handedly introduced more people to veganism in a positive way than any other individual I can think of - ever. Please be fair, and accurate.

  49. November 30, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    Such a cohesive and compelling (and humorous!) post. Thank you for standing up for male chicks - the 'unwanted by-products' of the egg industry. And, thank you for linking hatcheries to backyard egg systems. Most people don't realise how horrendous hatcheries are- or that backyard hens come from them.

  50. Albert Martinez
    November 30, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    It's very easy to be critical and "disappointed" in others. I agree with many of the points raised here. However I find this kind of thing a bit counterproductive. Maybe Ellen is just trying to find her way through a new way of living the best way she knows at this time. I find personally, that I'm always finding out new things about animal abuse that I had not conceived before and then adjusting my life choices around that new knowledge. I think it's dangerous also to put anyone on some kind of "vegan pedestal" representing ethical behavior. Ellen is just like you and I and would make judgement errors all the time. It's a huge and unreasonable expectation to believe someone should be in that position and it would only potentially serve to polarize her from this movement.

  51. Laura Slitt
    December 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Wonder why she felt like she had to say anything about it ?

  52. christie
    December 2, 2012 at 2:33 am

    I was listening to your podcast in the bath tonight and I rushed out to come check out your blog to see if it was really true!!! I too fell in love with Ellen (and I'm not even a lesbian!) after she spoke out so well for animals. I too felt like things were just a little bit better for the animals because SHE was on our side. I feel pretty devastated right now. The backyard chicken thing is so bad for chickens, and this could very easily make so many on-the-fence types feel a little bit better about buying those 'free-range' eggs. When we lived in the country, we kept chickens as companions. Some of them were even Foster Farms birds that were rescued before being sent to slaughter. I ate a few of their eggs periodically because I felt like well, I knew they were 'happy'. They were going to lay the eggs anyway, blah blah blah. I continued evolving as a vegan and now I would never consume anything that came from an animal. It's dangerous to even remotely start thinking of animals in terms of what they can give us, or as commodities. Like you said, I do hope this is just a bump in the road for her. Thanks for writing this letter to her. And I LOVE you both so much! Your podcast was an acquired taste for me, but now I can't get enough of it. I even love the way both of you enunciate your words. I laugh and hold back tears each week listening to you. Some of your lesbian humor goes over my head (LOL), but I think of you both as dear friends. Christie

  53. December 2, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    So well said. I also love Ellen and this was such an off the cuff disappointment. I so want to believe that she just doesn't understand the issue isn't about an egg but about animal use. Thanks! Marty Marty's Flying Vegan Review

  54. December 2, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Was this actually sent to Ellen I hope?

  55. December 2, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Translated: Ellen, when you went vegan, we put you on a pedestal. We like to do that with celebrities, especially when we get to imagine they're quite like us, which makes us feel closer to them and therefore special. Now you have failed to meet our expectations. Waah. Keep up the good vegan work. Forget about idealising other people.

  56. December 3, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    How about we lay back off Ellen's back and mind our own business!!! Being a vegan is a CHOICE! What we eat is a CHOICE! I am a vegan myself and once in a while I slip up and have a bite of a cake or a cookie that has eggs in them. It is absolutely CRUEL what they do to animals...but making veganism one's lifestyle is a process. It takes a while before you (or I at least) will throw out all of my leather shoes and belts out... I don't have the money to buy all the new pretty stuff that does not have any leather in them. But most of all, how about all the GOOD things that Ellen has done??? So what she had some eggs... no one seems to mind the fact that she was a meat eater before she became a vegan!!! MOST OF YOU VEGANS OUT THERE ATE MEAT, CHEESE and EGGS before becoming vegans!!! Let's not forget where we all came from! How about less judging??? Imagine how much good we are all doing simply by not eating any more meat products!!! Not only to ourselves but also to the environment! Before any drug addict comes clean, he or she does go through quite a few slip ups before he or she becomes sober forever... and even forever doesn't seem to be that long and people have relapses and get themselves together again. So how about we mind what we put in our bodies and be the forgiving people that we should be. She has some eggs every once in a while... Let her be. But she also donates thousands and thousands of dollars to families in need!! I wonder if you judgmental assholes will ever be able to donate and do as much good in your lifetime as Ellen has done! She has been a vegan for what like a few years? But she has been a meat eater for over 50! So let's not dirty up our vegan community name and be the nice people that we should be. More informing and less judging. How will anyone ever truly start listening to us if all that we do is judge judge judge. WE WERE ALL MEAT EATERS AT SOME POINT!!! Let's think back to the moment when we first became vegan and what made us make that decision. Let's be kind to others! Some of my meat eater friends are some of the best and kindest people that I know, and only when I INFORM them as oppose to PREACH to them do they listen to what I have to say about the plant based diet! Dyke, homo, transexual, hetero, bi, whatever sexuality you are, carnivore, omnivore, herbivore...Whatever kind of eater you are, we are all human and we all make mistakes! Just because my dog and my cat eat meat, it doesn't make me hate them more. I know my dog likes meat more than veggies, and dogs can easily be on a vegan diet, but so what? I am not gonna push my dog to eat what she doesn't want. I even give MY dog a choice! SO let there be peace on Earth... one step at a time! It took thousands of years for humans to develop nasty habits of eating meat, so let's not expect for everyone to stop eating it at once. ONE STEP AT A TIME!!!

  57. keishua
    December 5, 2012 at 9:54 am

    My problem with the whole chickens in the backyard is that the chickens don't lay eggs for humans. not really. they didn't all get together and think-man i want to give humans my eggs. we take their eggs and that is wrong. IMO ,backyard animals and free range animals are never really about the animals but about satisfying the appetites and appeasing minds. ...Steps off soapbox.

  58. December 5, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    @Lina, couldn't agree more. If I didn't go to an exclusively plant based diet for the reasons that I did, I probably would never have done it simply because of the kind of blind judgementalism I see in the vegan community. To not eat meat, which is straightforward murder, is number one. To avoid dairy and eggs produced commercially in the insane torture chambers they call dairies and hatcheries is also very important. But there are these grey areas that we just have to allow people to explore for themselves. I'm not going to eat my chickens' eggs, but I don't believe it is wrong to do so, it just conflicts with my spiritual path. I know so many vegans who flip out if someone eats honey, but squash ants, spiders and so forth without even thinking twice. Ellen has been through the experience of 'shaming' ENOUGH in her life. We need to cut her a break. Of all the people in the world who do not deserve to be called out on the carpet, it is her.

  59. December 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    Farm Sanctuary collects the unfertilized eggs, hardboils them in water, takes off the shell, mashes up the eggs and then feeds them back to the hens so that they regain calcium and other nutrients. Ingenius idea. No need to eat eggs people. No excuses! I liked Ellen but was always disappointed that she was a spokeswoman for CoverGirl. I hope she reconsiders incorporating eggs into her diet. She has the ability to be of great positive, vegan influence and I hope she goes back to a 100% vegan diet.

  60. December 8, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    When I first turned vegan it was hard. I wanted cheese so badly that if there was a more humane way to get it I probably would have eaten it. (Now almost ten years later, being vegan is a piece of cake.) So I understand her slip up, but it still bums me out. Hopefully she comes back to the vegan side.

  61. January 9, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Omg you are all nutters. Completely wack-o. That one of you has egg laying hens and is having a moral dilemma about what to do with their eggs because giving them to POSSIBLY STARVING PEOPLE IN NEED might give them the idea that it's ok to eat this free food product that gives them nutrients they can use, it is blowing my mind. This is why I am quietly vegan and have been for 20 years, and never venture to the psycho vegan blogs of the internet. Thankfully I made my CHOICE to eat a vegan diet before every crazy with an agenda had a blog or YOU LOT would have totally put me off. I raised my daughter vegan. She's a 22 year old meat eater now. I should just disown her, I suppose. Evil, evil person that she is. You all are doing so much more harm than good, you, really, really are. Stop being such judgmental twats, honestly.

  62. July 10, 2014 at 8:56 am

    So let me get this straight, to a vegan there is no possible way to keep chickens and have it be humane? That is ridiculous. There is absolutely NO reason to throw out perfectly good eggs that are just going to sit there and rot because nothing is eating them or nothing is hatching. I have neighbours that have many egg laying hens that they keep as PETS! And when their eggs run out they will continue to be well loved pets until the day they die a natural dealth due to health related issues. (or you know, a fox eats them because we do live in the country and wild animals still need to eat food and sometimes they get through the fence despite efforts to keep them out). And you know what? She doesn't have multiple roosters because they will fight to death, not because she doesn't want them. If one of you feels like opening a sanctuary for roosters go ahead and be my guest. It's people like you that make the rest of us stay faaarrrr away from becoming a vegan, it's not good enough to make an effort to become vegan and slowly drop animal products from your life, or to try to make informed choices. Instead we get blasted for eating eggs that were going to get thrown out anyways. Grow up and stop picking on people!

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