An Animal-Friendly Easter

easter chickens

Still eggcellent, still chocolaty.

Easter means different things to different people. For many, the celebration is associated with a long weekend of Easter-egg hunts, family get-togethers, and the warm, cinammony aroma of hot-cross buns. Thankfully, even if you are making changes towards plant-based eating and vegan living, these traditions don’t have to change – just some of the ingredients do! With plant-based options now all the rage, this upcoming Easter can be just as special and just as chocolaty. Yes, you read that right – you do not have to miss out on chocolate.

Of course we want to treasure traditions that bring families together and put a smile on kids’ faces, but it is important to pause and think about whether the things we do impact on anyone else in a negative way. By changing the brand of chocolate we buy, using egg and dairy substitutes in our recipes, and being conscious with our decorating and gifting, we can help make the world a little kinder to baby animals during this time of celebration and giving. 

Chocolate Eggs

Companies are starting to seriously address the consumer demands for alternatives to cow’s milk, as well as catering to dietary requirements such as lactose intolerance. As a result, dairy-free chocolate eggs aren’t too hard to come by these days. 
Chains such as ALDI now stock Sweet Williams Dairy Free Eggs. Online, sites like Flora and Fauna, All About Empathy, and the Vegan Grocery Store, have plenty of sweets, from Easter-themed chocolates, to just-because-you-feel-like-it chocolates.

What’s wrong with dairy?

It’s quite common for people to question one’s choice to avoid dairy – there is a common misconception that dairy is simply a byproduct that cows create in excess, and that cows are not injured or killed for dairy products. This is because, from a very young age, we are taught that milk simply comes from cows. In reality, all milk comes from mothers – mothers who produce milk to nourish their babies.

Dairy is Scary: Australia“, is Animal Liberation’s latest exposé on Australia’s dairy industry. It is never pleasant to see or read about, but the life of a female dairy cow is one of constant use and abuse, until she breaks. Firstly, she is restrained and artificially inseminated by a farmer. After nine months, she gives birth, and within 24 hours her baby is taken away. A female baby will likely be raised to replace spent dairy cows, and a male baby will either be destroyed as “waste”, or killed for veal. Her milk, meant for her baby, is taken from her, for humans to add to their cake mix or pour on their cereal. Once her milk supply starts to diminish, she is impregnated and the cycle starts again, until her body breaks down, and she is sent to slaughter. Most dairy cows are killed at just six years old.

This cycle can be broken – and it all starts with seeking out dairy-free alternatives, which also happen to be better for the environment, and our bodies. Take the pledge to drop dairy today and receive a free e-book full of alternatives.

easter dairy

Other Sweet Treats

Hot Cross Buns are basically Easter in bread form. Delightful Adventures has a recipe here, so there will be no missing out on this festive staple. Given how delicious they are, there shouldn’t be any complaints – your family probably won’t even realize they are made without egg! Both Coles and Woolworths’ “traditional fruit hot cross buns” are accidentally vegan as well.

For another crowd-pleasing treat on Easter morning, Tasty have the best pancake recipe, or you can buy vegan Pancake & Waffle Mix by Melinda’s. If you want to go all out, play around with fresh fruit and dairy-free cream toppings to create Easter-themed animals – or better yet, occupy the kids by delegating the decorating duties.

Don’t forget, you can also follow your favourite original recipes, and simply swap out any dairy and eggs. Store bought egg-replacers include Bob’s Red Mill Egg Replacer, and Orgran No Egg. Other easily accessible substitutes include applesauce, ground flax seeds, chia seeds, or aquafaba (chickpea juice). Instructions on using these replacers can be found in this Healthline article.

Credit: Melinda’s Gluten Free Goodies

What’s wrong with using eggs?

Layer hens, whether caged, barn laid, or “free-range”, lay an unnaturally high number of eggs. Over time, humans have selectively bred chickens to lay over 300 eggs a year – the presumed ancestor of the farmed layer hen, laid just up to 15. This puts an immense amount of pressure on their bodies, leading to severe health problems.

On top of the troubles occurring internally, the external conditions that farmed hens are raised in are often abysmal. This is the case regardless of whether eggs are labelled as caged, barn laid, and the most misleadingly, “free-range”. Despite their nature to form complex social structures, forage, and dust bath, they are kept in restrictive cages, or open-plan sheds by the thousands. Due to confinement, they often peck one another, a behaviour the industry combats by de-beaking (cutting off the tip of their beaks). Beyond this, they are also deprived of the chance to experience brooding. A hen would not only sit on her eggs, but also “talk” to her chicks before they have hatched, just as human mothers speak and sing to their baby in the womb.

At just 18 months old, all layer hens are considered “spent”. This is because their egg production slows down and they are no longer of use to the egg industry. Last year, Animal Liberation exposed the gassing of spent layer hens on a Victorian egg farm. To continue production, egg farming requires a portion of the eggs to be fertilized and hatched, to ensure more egg-laying hens are born. All male chickens are destroyed. The RSCPA considers gassing and mascerating humane methods for these day old babies. As egg laying chickens are a different breed to broiler chickens, these male chicks are not raised for meat, which is a common misconception.

Just like with dairy, this is something we can phase out by making more ethical choices next time we go shopping. Take the pledge to break-up with eggs and receive a free e-book with alternatives.

Easter hen and chicks

Kids Activities

Kids love being creative, and avoiding animal-products in crafts means we need to get creative too! Ideally, up-cycle things from around the house to avoid unnecessary waste, and look for simple ways to veganize existing ideas rather than trying to come up with entirely new concepts.

Here are three fun decorating activities to keep your kids busy these holidays –

  1. Painted “eggs” – Instead of eggshells for painting, use avocado pits. They are round, sturdy, and long lasting – and best of all, they come from avocados. Store cleaned avocado pits in the lead up to Easter, or make a delicious batch of guacamole for Easter lunch, and then get out the paint brushes! 
  2. Pancake Decorating – Whip up Tasty’s Fluffiest Vegan Pancakes, and the kids can create their own baby animal pancakes using fresh fruit and dairy-free cream. For some inspiration, refer to the bunny pancakes in the Other Sweet Treats section above. 
  3. Cardboard Animals – Up-cycle cardboard boxes or rolls to make simple rabbit and chick shapes for painting and decorating. For inspo, check out “Toilet paper roll Easter crafts” on Pinterest, or these sweet little bunnies from ThriftyFun.
Easter crafts
Credit: ThriftyFun

Animals As Gifts

Bunnies and chicks are the cutest little balls of fluff ever – there is no denying it. Who can look at their fuzziness and precious faces without awww-ing? And what kid doesn’t, at some point, want their very own companion to smother with affection?

Unfortunately, with each festive season that passes on the calendar, baby animals are gifted without consideration of the long-term commitment they require. Animal shelters receive an influx of these beautiful, neglected creatures once the novelty wears off and they are considered too much work.

If you are truly ready to share your home with a companion animal, fostering temporarily or adopting from a rescue is a wonderful idea. There are so many animals in shelters around the country waiting to give love, and be loved, in a new forever home. Otherwise, any bunnies or chicks gifted this Easter, should either be plush toys or made out of dairy-free chocolate.

easter bunny

Spread the Love

Your usual hunt for Easter eggs in the garden may first require a supermarket hunt for dairy-free chocolate eggs this year, but there will still be smiles all around! Keep on spreading the love through April and beyond, and comment below with your favourite brand of dairy-free chocolate or recipe. With all the plant-based options on offer, let’s make this Easter even more special, by extending our thoughts and kindness to include baby animals as well.

Ari Feldmann