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If I am a vegetarian can I take eggs? - Sun, 23 Jan '05

Question from balvihar student Rishabh Iyer:

Question: Swamiji, you taught us that vegetarianism is based on ahimsa, non-injury. Then, is it OK to eat eggs since chickens are not killed

Answer: It is true that eating an unfertilized egg does not kill a chicken. But it is also true that chickens are treated very badly in modern chicken farms. They are kept in tiny cages, allowed no freedom of movement, and are fed with hormones to artificially stimulate the rapid production of eggs. So, eating eggs contributes to this cruel treatment of chickens. The same is true about milk produced in large commercial dairies — cows often suffer significantly through the production of milk.

Does this mean that you should stop drinking milk and avoid cookies or cake made with eggs? Not necessarily. The principle of ahimsa requires us to do whatever causes the least harm. This principle must be applied to your life. For a young, growing person like yourself, milk is an important source of nutrition. It is possible that the harm done to yourself from not drinking milk outweighs the harm done to cows through the production of milk.

As for eggs, let me explain how I have resolved this for myself. I do not eat eggs, but if someone serves me a piece of cake, I do not ask whether or not it contains eggs. If I were to ask, I might embarrass the person serving me who may or may not know whether it contains eggs. If I refuse to eat the cake, I might hurt feelings of my host. To me, it seems like this hurt would outweigh the harm to the chickens in producing the eggs. Perhaps this example can suggest how you might decide what is right for yourself.