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No end in sight for slaughter of newborn male chickens

Agriculture & Food

No end in sight for slaughter of newborn male chickens

Egg-laying breeds are different to chickens raised for their meat, and the males are disposed of as a result.

[Rick Kimpel/Flickr]

Millions of newly-hatched chicks are killed every year in Germany, because the males are not worth anything to the poultry business. Even though experts have denounced it as a violation of animal welfare laws, Berlin has decided against banning the practice. EurActiv Germany reports.

In industrial hatcheries, male and female chicks are separated by the workers. The females are shipped away to be reared and farmed for their eggs, while the males are either killed by a shredding machine or gassed with carbon dioxide. All because the agricultural business sees no profit in male chicks.

In Germany alone, between 45 and 50 million newly-hatched chicks are killed every year, which is a direct violation of animal welfare legislation, according to most experts, because the chicks often suffer when they are euthanised. Nevertheless, Germany’s ruling coalition, made up of the CDU, CSU and SPD, decided against banning the practice, because of economic considerations.

“Improving animal welfare doesn’t happen through bans, it gets done through cooperation with the farmers themselves,” said Dieter Stier (CDU), warning that livestock production would move abroad otherwise.

“The smokescreen that Agricultural Minister Christian Schmidt has formed around the issue is a declaration of political bankruptcy,” said the Greens’ agricultural policy spokesperson, Friedrich Ostendorff.

The Greens want the cull banned and submitted a request to the Bundestag that the industrial shredding of one-day-old chicks be outlawed, with a suitable transition period established. Germany’s regions also want to see an end to the mass killing of newly-hatched chicks. Regional authorities previously denounced the culling of newborn male chicks as incompatible with animal welfare laws.

CAP and animal welfare: Simply incompatible

Livestock production has been at the centre of the intensification in agriculture brought by Europe’s Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), writes Olga Kikou. These policies have put farmers under pressure, and created conditions for overproduction, she says.

It is not just Germany where it is still legal. EU legislation on the slaughter and stunning of animals is intended to minimise their pain and suffering. Where male chicks are concerned, the Commission regulation stipulates that the animals cannot be culled if older than 72 hours and care must be taken not to overfill the maceration machine. Data collected prior to 2009 shows that over 330 million day-old-chicks were killed every year in the EU.

New EU law links animal welfare with human health

A new regulation adopted by the European Parliament’s agriculture committee aims at putting an end to outbreaks of animal diseases through a “preventive” approach.


Animal welfare is an extremely sensitive issue in Germany and the German Animal Welfare Act is some of the strictest legislation in the world, affording animals far-reaching protection. According to the law they are fellow creatures. At the same time, animal research is explicitly allowed, but it must always be shown that the goal of the experiments cannot be reached using other methods or techniques.