by Emmanuelle TRECOLLE
France is to ban the hugely controversial but widespread poultry industry practice of systematically slaughtering male chicks from the end of 2021, Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume said Tuesday.
“The aim is to oblige firms… to do this by the end of 2021,” Guillaume told BFM television. He expressed hope that a method could be found that works on a large scale to determine the sex of an embryo in the egg before it hatches.
He also announced that within a similar time frame, France would ban the castration of piglets without anaesthetic, another measure long urged by animal rights activists.
“There is the question of the well-being of the animals. But also that of the breeder. And I don’t know a breeder who wants their animals to be mistreated. They like their animals,” he said.
France would team up with Germany and Spain for a labelling system on animal well-being starting next year, he added.
France prides itself on the traditions of its meat and poultry industry, but there have been growing tensions in the last years between producers and activists who have called for radical changes in their methods.
A series of French butcher shops have been vandalised in recent months by “anti-speciesism” activists, who say eating meat is an immoral violation of the rights of other species.
‘Technique should be found’
Egg production requires the hatching of millions of chicks every year, with the females sold to be raised and exploited by either individual farmers or commercial poultry farms.
Adult roosters, however, produce no eggs and develop far less meat than the so-called “broilers” bred especially for eating.
As a result, producers say male chicks are not worth the cost of raising to adults and are usually killed, either by grinding up or gassing.
Researchers have yet to come up with a way to effectively determine the sex of a chick still in the egg that works on an industrial scale.
“A technique should be found that works on a large scale,” Guillaume said.
The top administrative court in Germany, where 45 million male chicks are slaughtered every year, ruled in June that the slaughtering of male chicks could continue in the poultry industry until a method is found to determine the sex of an embryo in the egg.
After hatching, male chicks are separated from the females, and then mechanically shredded or crushed, or else suffocated by carbon dioxide, their remains often used as animal feed.
An EU directive from 2009 authorises shredding as long as it causes “immediate” death for chicks less than 72 hours old.
The two main alternatives to industrial culling are to raise the male chicks as usual, or try to determine the sex of chicks while still in the egg, so they can be killed before hatching.
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