France to ban mass killing of male chicks after they hatch

Warning: Upsetting images

A chick stands among eggs being hatched inside an incubator at the Agriculture Fair in Paris (Picture: AFP)

France will ban the controversial but widespread practice of live-shredding male chicks, it has announced.

The move has been cautiously welcomed by animal welfare activists who have called on other countries, including the UK, to follow suit.

Some seven billion male chicks are culled each other – many ground up alive, gassed, electrocuted or asphyxiated in plastic bags.

They are unwanted because they do not produce eggs and are far less meaty than female birds.

Workers arrange trays of recently hatched yellow chicks as they move along a conveyor belt (Picture: Getty)

Agriculture Minister, Didier Guillaume, said the practice would end in France by the end of next year, in line with a policy already under development in Germany.

He said: ‘It’s time to end the shredding of chicks.

‘France and Germany should be the European motor to advance on this issue.

‘From the end of 2021, nothing will be like it was before.’

Producers argue that raising male chickens into adulthood is a waste of money but, as yet, there is not a viable method to determine the gender of a chicken embryo before it is hatched.

Mr Guillaume has said he wants a technique developed soon that can work on a large scale.

This would enable producers to destroy the egg before the chickens are actually born.

EU laws say male chicks must be no older than 72 hours before they are killed (Picture: Getty)

Switzerland already banned chick shredding in September last year, even though it was a rare practice among Swiss poultry farmers.

Germany, where some 45 million male chicks are macerated each year, have outlawed it too.

However, German judges ruled last summer that the practice could continue until it was possible to work out the sex of an embryo in the egg.

A 2009 EU directive authorises shredding as long as it causes the immediate death for chicks less than 72 hours old.

Male chicks are unwanted because they do not produce eggs and are far less meaty than female birds (Picture: Getty)

From next year, Mr Guillaume also announced that France would require anaesthesia be given to piglets being castrated.

Neutering is done to encourage slaughter animals to grow fatter and prevent a potent smell said to emit from the fatty meat of non-neutered boars.

Castrating piglets is less common in Europe outside France, according to the organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and the use of anaesthesia is already obligatory in some countries.

Mr Guillaume added that France, Germany and Spain would sign up to a new well-being labelling system for animals starting in 2021.

France prides itself on its meat and poultry industries, but there have been growing tensions in recent years between producers and activists calling for radical changes in farming methods.

PETA said the measures were ‘a step in the right direction but still inadequate.’

Spokeswoman Anissa Putois said: ‘These practices and many other forms of mutilation, unnatural confinement and violent slaughter, are still happening in the meat and animal products industries around the world.’

She added that the French government had not announced a ban on eggs from cage-raised chickens nor proposed any legislation about slaughter house conditions.

Ms Putois continued: ‘The best alternative to these cruel and barbaric practices is to make the transition to a vegan diet which does not expose sentient beings to suffering.’


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