I know you aren’t trying to shame vegans or anything, lots of people have these questions and I think they are valid.
In the very unlikely scenario (or not so unlikely if you use that service, which sounds like a great idea by the way) in which you described, in which a hen is rescued from a farm (and by that I mean you are not creating demand for breeding which leads to the slaughter of many male chickens) and you keep it as a companion because it has nowhere else to go (and chickens are in fact wonderful companion animals and are capable of much affection, unbeknownst to most people) I couldn’t really care less if you want to eat her eggs. It wouldn’t be vegan but it doesn’t seem to be cruel from what I understand. I know there’s a lot of information flying around about what is and isn’t healthy, but I’m not about that obviously. I have always been an advocate for caring for animals that are already domesticated by our ancestors. However I do not know the medical needs of a chicken well enough to tell you if it would be healthy for her for you to be taking her eggs all the time. If this scenario were to happen to me, I would do as much research as possible to ensure that I was caring for her properly and not in fact hurting her in some way by taking her eggs, and I would likely give them to someone who is having trouble affording food (if it was in fact appropriate for me to take them for her health.)
This statement is in NO WAY an endorsement of “backyard farmers” or “small farms,” and as I stated previously even the smallest farms still have to slaughter numerous male chickens that are born in order to keep a manageable ratio of hens to chickens, and many of them employ practices that still hurt the chickens in other ways to increase egg production. This is a cruelty free blog so I will not go into detail here (not just for my follower’s sake but for mine—animal cruelty makes me so incredibly sad) but please do not purchase eggs from these “small farms,” or “free-range” farms (a meaningless term) and instead help foster the rescue of chickens as companion animals from places such as farm sanctuary, where they are allowed to live out their lives happily and freely.
For the question about oysters, how do you or I know oysters aren’t sentient? Are you we or have we ever been an oyster? They are animals, they do have a nervous system and are capable of feeling pain. The question is, do you need to hurt them to survive? You won’t die from not eating oysters, but they will die because you wanted seafood for dinner, and so will pounds upon pounds of other “unwanted” fish along with sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and many other sea creatures that are unavoidably killed in the fishing process. (Read more about the overfishing problem we are facing here.) One moment of pleasure is not worth ending anyone’s life, at least not to me, even if that animal doesn’t display behavior traits that I understand to be “sentient.” Please remember that as humans, our understanding of what is and what isn’t sentient or intelligent is very limited.
Just an update on this; I had the opportunity to talk with someone over lunch (which was confirmed by several anons as well) who has been around domesticated chickens throughout their life and it seems that it does not hurt the chickens to harvest their eggs (although some people are saying you should occasionally feed one back to them, like I said I don’t know chickens.) I was also informed that if you choose to participate in this program that you should adopt a pair because they will get lonely.
So eating them I still believe wouldn’t be vegan, but harvesting them from a hen you are fostering may actually be alright. However since I believe veganism is all about the spirit of altruism and kindness, if I had the opportunity to do this I would want to give my eggs to someone who is having trouble affording food, since eggs are not necessary for my survival when I have access to so much food at such a low cost. That’s kind of a gray area but that’s just how I see it; that has more to do with my own morals than anything else. Not that it matters, I can’t keep chickens within the city limits anyway.
I still stand by what I said about oysters though. If something has the ability to feel pain, and I have the ability to choose whether or not to inflict that pain, I choose to not inflict that pain every time.