Tropique Nord 2017 (Montréal).
I am sorry for the late post! I wish you all a very happy holiday.
It is something many people have tried or thought about trying at least once in their life: getting store bought eggs to hatch. They have probably done this without thinking about what they would do with the chicken if it did hatch, but that’s another story. It is hard and a little odd to imagine that breakfast food could actually have been alive and growing before cooking it, but it is surely not an impossible occurrence. Once hens reach reproductive maturity, they begin producing eggs whether or not they have been fertilized by a rooster. Only fertilized eggs have the capacity to grow and hatch and it’s not impossible that a fertilized egg could wind up in your refrigerator.
Eggs that come from large factories, where the chickens are caged, will most likely never hatch, simply due to the fact that the hen has probably never left her cage and has therefore never encountered a rooster to fertilize her eggs.
Free-range eggs are another story. Eggs that have been marked as “free-range” mean that the hens that produced them were not caged and were allowed to roam “free” on the farm. It is possible that these hens have had interactions with roosters, as it is a quite common practice for farmers to introduce a rooster into the flock of hens to regulate their behaviour. These types of eggs are the ones that have potential to hatch.
Without a hen, hatching an egg requires quite a bit of effort. The eggs should be kept at or just above body temperature and about 50% humidity to mimic the conditions of the mother hen sitting on them. Incubators are ideal for this, which is mainly why very few people have successfully hatched a store bought egg. I don’t know many people who keep incubators in their storage closets…
Even before incubating, it’s baffling that the chicken embryo could have possibly survived the transport, refrigeration, washing, being tossed around by machines and conveyor belts, sorting, packaging, storage, more transport, and more refrigeration in the store and at home. Surprisingly, it’s survivable because of the simple mechanisms behind how eggs work. The embryo is only a small collection of cells on the egg yolk’s wall during all this and it is protected by the liquid albumen of the egg white.
The refrigeration will stop the growth of the embryo, but it will not necessarily kill it. Once in the ideal conditions of the incubator (or the mother hen’s underbody) the embryo will resume growth. And this is precisely what happened to little Albert the quail.
Although Albert is a rare occurrence, it’s not abnormal. Just keep in mind that if you ever want to hatch a store bought egg, you must remember the implications of actually having a living, breathing chick in your home afterward, (that could have been your breakfast).
This week’s blog post will be a little more phiosophical, dealing with a topic that’s been debated for a very long time, animal rights. I’ll be taking some well-known opinions that we have been analyzing in school and extending them to whole ecosystems. Enjoy!
The issue of animal rights is no new concept. Animals are deeply integrated in our modern lifestyles to the point where interactions with them are inevitable and occur on a daily basis. Decisions regarding how each individual human interacts with non-human animals are made each day by the consumption of cosmetics, food and other objects (Korsgaard, 2009). On a broader scale, the Western world faces problems of overconsumption and many unsustainable practices that are wreaking havoc on the Earth System. Human population is growing at an alarming rate, leading to the destruction of habitats and ecosystems that are vital to the functioning of the Earth System. The question at hand is that if we have moral duties toward non-human animals, then what are our moral duties regarding the whole ecosystems to which these species belong? We need to look at the whole, and not just the parts.
Korsgaard’s views can be extended to ecosystems in general. She argues that the difference between humans and non-human animals is that humans understand the implications of their actions and can therefore evaluate situations and make decisions about whether or not to act on their emotions, instincts and desires. In other words, humans have the capacity to self-govern. It is natural for life to prey on life, however our human nature obliges us to hold ourselves to higher standards than nature has given us. If we are considering ourselves superior to animals in this sense, then we should not act savage like them, we have duties to respect them (Korsgaard, 2009).
Extending to ecosystems, Korsgaard’s views and reasoning can give insight as to why it is our duty to respect and protect whole ecosystems. Korsgaard argues that it is a uniquely human characteristic to have the capacity to recognize the implications of one’s actions and base our decisions as to what is right and what is wrong on that (Korsgaard, 2009). Through this, we have the duty to protect the ecosystems to which the species that we owe moral standing to belong. Ecosystems, are just that, systems. All components interact, and everything affects everything. By disrespecting and destroying the physical environment, we are disrespecting and destroying every other component of the ecosystem, including the non-human animals. If we as humans are able to realize this we can evaluate our actions that cause destruction to habitats and ecosystems. In order to respect the parts, we must preserve and respect the whole.
Finally, Korsgaard argues that it is difficult to treat animals rightly, as their harm is deeply embedded in our lifestyles. She also states that is this is no reason to not try harder to do so, and this can be applied to whole ecosystems as well (Korsgaard, 2009). Our culture is built heavily around the destruction of the environment and the modification of the Earth System that it is extremely difficult to change one’s lifestyle to treat animals and ecosystems rightly, having no negative impact. If we use this inconvenience as an excuse to continue on with our unsustainable practices, then we are not moral and we cannot advance. The Earth as a whole, has given us life and allowed us to become what we are. We realize this as humans, and thus it is our duty to respect and protect the whole, if we wish to respect the parts to which we owe moral standing.
Korsgaard, C. M. (2009). Facing the animal you see in the mirror. The Harvard Review of Philosophy, 16(1), 4-9.