The German parliament recently voted against a Green Party bill that would have banned the practice of killing newborn male chicks in the egg industry. According to a spokesman from the ruling Christian Democratic Union Party, the decision was made out of fear that “…animal production will move to another country.” A high court affirmed this decision, arguing that German law allows the killing of animals if it can be justified economically and that chick shredding is “…part of the process for providing the population with eggs and meat.” An agricultural minister from Northern Germany disagreed with the decision, stating “We must finally stop treating animals like garbage.”
Since male chicks cannot lay eggs or be profitably raised for meat, they are usually killed within hours of hatching. The most common methods are grinding them up alive (maceration), gassing, electrocution or suffocation by stuffing them into garbage bags. In Germany, approximately 40 million newborn male chicks are killed every year. Worldwide, the number is estimated to be 2.5 billion.
“If killing millions of newborns doesn’t violate the animal protection laws of a country widely perceived as being on the forefront of animal welfare reform, then one can only imagine what farm animal practices are legal in countries like the U.S.,” said Karen Davis, President of United Poultry Concerns, a national advocacy group that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl. “It is thus interesting that the U.S. egg industry trade group, United Egg Producers (UEP), has just announced it will, by 2020, replace the killing of newborn male chicks with ‘in-ovo egg sexing,’ a process in which the sex of chicks is identified before they develop inside of their eggs.”
In response to the news, Davis said, “While in-ovo chick sexing must surely be less inhumane than the mass-extermination of fully developed chicks, it does not eliminate the inherent cruelty of commercial egg production.”
The practice of chick shredding has generated tremendous controversy worldwide in recent years. In June, 2015, Israeli animal rights activists occupied a hatchery and shut off a macerator that was grinding newborn chicks. When police arrived at the scene, activist Tal Gilboa challenged an officer, saying “I want to see you, as a human being regardless of your uniform, cop or no cop, turn on the power supply.” The video of this act of civil disobedience was viewed over two million times on Facebook.