Aimee Jones explores the reforming of chick culling laws in Italy, France and Germany, and the impact of anti-cull campaigns
Photo by Brian David
Approximately seven billion male chicks are killed across the world each year, simply because they are deemed to be 'unprofitable'. Sadly, the killing of male chicks is widespread within the egg industry, yet not many people are aware of the cruelty that takes place in the process of providing their local supermarkets with eggs.
Why are male chicks deemed unprofitable?
Male chicks cannot produce eggs; therefore, no profit can be made from them within the egg industry. They also cannot be sold on to the meat industry as they are a different breed of chick to those that are bread to be eaten. Therefore, the industry sees no use in the male chicks and the decision to kill them is made.
It is believed that approximately 29 million male chicks are killed each year in the UK alone; 25-40 million are killed in Italy and a huge 260 million are killed in the US.
How are male chicks killed?
Sadly, the ways in which the chicks’ lives are ended are all very brutal and cruel.
Suffocation – Chicks are placed into cramped plastic bags and left to die
Decapitation – The chick's necks are snapped individually
CO2 Killing – the use of a high CO2 gas slowly kills the chicks; this can be very painful and long lasting
Maceration – live chicks are placed onto a conveyor belt and put through a shredder.
In the UK, the most common method of killing the chicks is by using an inert gas. This kills the chicks within two minutes; much less painful than the high CO2 gasses, but still unpleasant and cruel.
After the chicks are killed, they are often fed to birds of prey, snakes, or sold within the zoo trade in order to help feed other animals.
The countries enacting chick cull bans
Some countries have already started to ban the killing of male chicks (also known as culling). For example, France vouched to do this by the end of 2021, with Germany following suit in 2022. These countries, along with some others, have already started to see sales of ‘no-cull’ eggs in their supermarkets.
Most recently, Italy have announced that they will be banning all culling by the end of 2026. This was officially passed on 3rd August 2022 by the Italian Chamber Deputies after 2 years of hard work and campaigning by the charity Animal Equality. The vote was passed by an absolute majority, with 346 voting in favour, 10 voting against and 19 abstentions.
Although we are seeing some European countries take a stand and move towards the banning of chick culling, unfortunately not all countries are on board. Last year, UK supermarkets were reported to be trying to block the ban of culling out of fear that consumers will become aware of the cruel goings-on within the egg industry. They said that by selling ‘no-cull’ eggs, this will draw the consumers attention to culling and educate them around what this is; believing that it is better for people to not know the extent of the cruelty and the killing that happens behind the scenes.
"The response [from UK supermarkets] is that the customer will realise all the other eggs are ‘with chick culling’, and they wouldn’t have known that before" - Carmen Uphoff, CEO of Respeggt
However, that will not stop Animal Equality from campaigning and sending around their petitions in the hope to change this outlook. Since 2010 Animal Equality have investigated nine hatcheries in Italy, Mexico, USA and Spain, where they documented the killing of male chicks. In 2020 the charity launched a petition in Italy to propose a ban on chick culling which gained over 100,000 signatures and allowed the petition to be looked at by the Italian government. It was then decided to put the initiative in place and come up with a timescale to make the ban happen.
We can only hope to see more countries taking part in these bans, to save the lives of millions of baby chicks each year.
Animal Equality's petitions can be found here.
Did you know? Italy's ban will save between 25 and 40 million male chicks from being culled annually. - Animal Equality
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