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26th Feb 2024

France and Germany seek EU ban on killing male chicks

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Nine EU countries are pushing for a Europe-wide ban to the systematic extermination of male chicks in farms.

"In the European Union alone, each year, hundreds of millions male chicks from laying hen hatcheries are disposed of after hatching, due to a lack of economic value," the group, led by France and Germany, said in a memo circulated earlier this week in the EU Council in Brussels.

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  • Europe is the world's third largest producer of poultry meat (Photo: Notat)

"This practice of killing newly born chicks does not meet the expectations of European consumers," they added.

"The inclusion of an EU-wide ban on the systematic killing of male chicks in the legislative proposals announced for 2023 would respond to the consumers' demands for better animal welfare and serve fair competition within the sector," they said.

The crusading countries also include Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Portugal.

Austria, France, Germany, and Luxembourg already have bans at national level.

Potential alternatives to keep chicken-farming profitable include "the sexing of embryos in ovo in order to select only female embryos before hatching, or the fattening of male chicks", the group-of-nine added.

For its part, the EU Commission is preparing an economic impact assessment on the ban, ahead of its revision of EU animal welfare laws next year, the memo noted.

A Commission work programme, published on Tuesday (18 October), said the legal overhaul is due in autumn next year and will also include proposals to restrict use of cages in farming.

"It is encouraging that despite lobbying efforts by vested interests, the Commission is still adamant to deliver its promise to end the use of cages in farming," Compassion in World Farming, an NGO, said the same day.

It also called for greater protection for fish and for animals in transport as well as the male-chick slaughter ban.

"It is of utmost importance that no loopholes undermine the effectiveness of the law, and that funds are redirected to ensure a just transition to a more ethical food system," it added.

The EU is the world's third largest producer of poultry meat after the US and Brazil, in a sector worth €32bn a year and 300,000 jobs to the European economy.

Poland is the largest producer, with over 20 percent of the EU market.

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