As I child, I enjoyed dropping tablets into water-filled mugs and watching the color change. Then I would dip away, and watch as the eggs went from bright white to red, yellow and green. But now, years later, knowing what I know about how millions of hens live and die for their eggs (see below), I can’t ignore the facts. For every dip, I would have visions of miserable, frightened hens crammed into filthy, wire cages unable to even spread one wing. So I would not feel good about it and could not do it in good conscience. It's not an activity that I want my child to participate in. As a family, we try our best to vote with our dollars, and we definitely do not want to vote and in essence, give our stamp of approval for animals being treated in such cruel ways. Some traditions are better left in the past, and that is exactly where I will leave this one.
Luckily, there are many alternatives to coloring real eggs that are just as fun, arguably even more fun! Kids can buy or make wooden, glass, paper mache, clay, paper, playdough and other eggs. They can decorate these eggs with paint, crayons, markers, chalk, fabric, beads, jewels, stickers, yarn, ribbon, foil, and other materials. You can even use natural food dyes such as beets, blueberries, saffron, cranberry juice, red wine, tumeric, raspberries, and anything else you can find in your kitchen pantry that can act as a dye. Better yet, use recycled materials found around your house and outside. This will get kids thinking creatively. You can also bake vegan cookies using an egg cookie cutter, and kids can decorate those. The ideas are endless! So be creative, and have fun. Most of all, if you are going this route, don’t apologize. Be proud that you have chosen not to do an activity (no matter how traditional it is) with your child that involves using a product that came from an animal who suffered greatly and had to pay a very high price for it.
Recently, I visited one of my best friends-- she found this great recipe for clay, which she shaped into eggs, and let dry for a few days. Our kids had a great time painting them! A BIG thank you to Heidi for organizing this special activity!
Here are a few pictures of the girls painting their eggs, followed by the clay recipe so you can make it too! Enjoy!
1/2 cup cornstarch
1cup boiling water
1) Mix all ingredients in a bowl
2) Boil to a soft ball stage (until thickened). Careful not to burn--reduce heat after boiling point.
3) Knead until dough-like
4) Wrap in wet cloth to keep for a few days
5) Form the shape that you want
6) Let dry
More than 95% of all eggs sold in the U.S. (hundreds of millions) come from hens who spend their entire lives crammed into tiny, filthy wire cages. Each hen lives her entire life in a cage with up to 10 other hens-- each hen has a space the size of a notebook piece of paper where they are unable to spread even one wing. This is their whole existence. Thousands of these cages are piled on top of one another, causing feces and urine to fall down onto the hens below. Because of the intense confinement, hens’ beaks (including sensitive cartilage, bone, and tissue) are cut off with a searing-hot blade. Some hens are in so much pain that they are unable to eat afterward, and they eventually die miserably of starvation. Hens frequently suffer from debilitating sores, bruises, and infections, and some get their limbs caught in the wire cages. None receive veterinary care (it’s too costly), and so they succumb to a slow death. Decaying bodies of those who’ve died are left to rot among the living hens in the cage. When hens’ bodies are unable to produce more eggs (the industry calls them “spent”), so the industry does what is called “forced molting”: This is a cruel and extremely inhumane practice in which hens are kept in the dark and given no food for up to 18 days-- this shocks their bodies into another laying cycle. More eggs equal more money. By the time they are sent to slaughter, more than a quarter of all hens suffer from broken bones, and nearly all have osteoporosis because of severe calcium loss. However, these are not the only victims of the egg industry. Male chicks who neither lay eggs nor grow fast or big enough to be considered useful for their meat are considered useless and are therefore discarded. An undercover investigation at the largest hatchery in the U.S. showed innocent, confused male chicks being callously thrown alive into grinding machines, where they are dismembered and crushed, or being put into plastic bags to suffocate to death. The egg industry is a horrible business no matter which way you look at it.
For those of you wondering about free-range and cage-free eggs, those labels are not regulated, so often these are just deceptive marketing claims that companies use to sell their products. For example, “cage-free” can mean that the hens are out of cages but still crammed wing to wing in a filthy, dark warehouse, and “access to outdoors” can mean they have access to a 12-inch-by-12-inch hole in the wall that leads to a dirt pen the size of your living room, but the likelihood that more than a handful of the hundreds of hens in the warehouse will ever get out there for more than 10 minutes is very slim. Unless you are personally going to the small farm down the street to pick up your carton of eggs each week (and you have personally seen the hens and their living conditions), it’s almost guaranteed that the eggs (and all the products containing eggs) you buy in the supermarket and order at restaurants fall into the 95% of eggs obtained from factory-farmed hens. Furthermore, even if you are buying eggs from your neighbor, it still supports the eggs industry and its unethical practices, since all hens likely came from a hatchery, where “useless” male chicks are callously killed.