A German high court recently ruled in favor of a longstanding and cruel practice at poultry farms worldwide — the mass culling of male chicks. The court based its decision on the premise that male chicks do not serve a purpose in the poultry industry. Companies then avoid violating Germany’s law that prohibits the infliction of harm on animals with no reasonable cause. It has been standard practice at hatcheries that supply hens to perform chick culling. These hatcheries exterminate male chicks in large numbers usually through methods of grinding or gassing.
Four to six billion male chicks are butchered this way every year globally as they are not suitable for meat in comparison to broiler chickens. Animal welfare advocates have attempted to introducing more humane alternatives such as breeding “dual-purpose” chickens, where poultry could serve as hens and meat, but it received little attention in the industry.
In 2016, United Egg Producers announced it would replace culling with “in-ovo egg sexing,” a process that could help determine the sex of the chick before it developed in the egg. However, the German court continues to stand with its ruling unless alternative methods are introduced until these alternative methods come out of the infancy stages. With nations like the United States and Germany supporting these changes, the poultry industry might just put an end to its dark, cruel tradition.