Animal welfare: EU countries call for ban on killing male chicks

Animal welfare: EU countries call for ban on killing male chicks
Credit: Unsplash/Nick Fewings

An information note from France and Germany on an EU-wide end to the systematic killing of male chicks was presented at a meeting of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council this week.

Currently male chicks are routinely killed when they are one day old since they are deemed useless by the industry. They do not lay eggs and are not of the same breed as chicken used for meat.  According to the note, in the EU alone, each year, hundreds of millions male chicks from laying hen hatcheries are disposed of after hatching due to lack of economic value.

The male chicks are killed by different methods, including maceration, in which animals are transferred to a grinder and are killed by shredding, whilst fully alive and conscious. According to EU regulation this method can only be used for chicks up to 72 hours post-hatch and for egg embryos.

In an opinion in 2019, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found shortcomings in the method. Another common method is the killing by carbon dioxide, although this method has also shown behavioral signs of suffering. What happens to male chicks after hatching is an animal welfare issue less known to consumers of eggs and poultry.

“This practice does not meet the standards or ethics of EU consumers,” commented Andreas Manz, FOUR PAWS´ EU Farm Animal Policy Coordinator. “The systematic killing of male chicks has to end. While the ultimate goal of course is moving back to dual-purpose breeds, where both sexes are equally valued.”

Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU, said: “We are happy to see so many EU countries presenting a united front against the killing of baby male chicks. Millions of these baby animals are gassed or shredded alive just because they are unable to produce eggs. The culling of male chicks is morally wrong.”

Are there alternatives to the current practise?

According to the animal welfare organisations, there are various methods to determine a chick's sex already inside the egg (in-ovo sexing method) in the 21-day incubation period before hatching. In that way the eggs can be destroyed before they are hatched.

“The EU must promote alternative technologies, such as determining the sex of the chicks before they are able to feel pain, which is before the 7th day of incubation,” commented Olga Kikou.

The note at the Council meeting from the French and German delegations had the support of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal. Some countries have already banned the systematic destruction of chicks without a reason, such as Germany and France in 2022, or plan to do it.

The discussion in the Council feeds into EU’s on-going revision of animal welfare legislation planned for 2023. At the meeting, the European Commission assured that it would consider a ban on the systematic killing of male chicks in the upcoming impact assessments regarding the revision of the legislation.

The Brussels Times

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