Two young yellow chicks standing in a cage Tens of millions of chicks are killed and discarded every year in Italy - Media Credit: Anipixels / We Animal Media

Italy Bans Slaughter Of Male Chicks, Sparing Up To 40 Million Birds A Year

Male chicks are considered by-products of the egg industry

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3 Minutes Read

In what is being hailed as a “historic milestone,” the Italian government will ban the “culling” of male chicks in the egg industry. The decision will put an end to the slaughter of 25 to 40 million young birds every year.

It follows two years of campaigning by Animal Equality Italy. The animal rights organization works with various companies and government bodies to better protect farmed animals. 

It started a petition about chick culling in 2020, which has since garnered more than 100,000 signatures. 

Shortly after the petition was launched, Assoavi (the trade association of Italy’s egg producers) announced its support of in-ovo sexing technology. This allows for a chick’s sex to be identified before they hatch, ensuring that only female birds are born. 

What happens to male chicks in the egg industry?

Given that male chicks cannot lay eggs, they are widely regarded as by-products in the egg industry. (They are typically not used for meat either, since they are a different species to chickens raised for their flesh.) 

As such, day-old or hours-old male chicks are routinely slaughtered. Typically, by asphyxiation (using carbon dioxide), cervical dislocation (the breaking of the neck), or maceration (whereby live chicks are thrown into a high-speed grinder).

Young yellow chicks on a conveyer belt beside an egg production worker
Luis Tato / HIDDEN / We Animals Media Less than a day after hatching, male chicks are disposed of

Italy bans ‘culling’ of chicks

Lawmakers in Italy first proposed the ban in December 2021. It was approved on August 3, 2022 in the Chamber of Deputies, and will come into effect in 2026.

Animal Equality Italy’s executive director Alice Trombetta, who considers such culls “systematic cruel slaughter,” applauded the move. In a statement, they said: “This is very important news for animals in Italy and is truly historic. We are very happy that Parliament has finally approved this amendment that regulates one of the most controversial aspects of the egg production industry.”

“Animals are sentient beings that can no longer just be considered industrial waste,” Trombetta continued. “The selective killing of male chicks that takes place every day will no longer be considered the norm, and institutions must now commit to this fundamental path for the progress of our country and animals.”

Petition for a US ban

The mass killing of chicks in the egg industry is not exclusive to Italy; the method is commonly used across the globe. In the US, approximately 260 million male chicks are slaughtered each year.

But change is coming. Both France and Germany have confirmed bans on such culls, and a petition to see the same happen in the US has exceeded 50,000 signatures. Those interested can read the petition here.

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The Author

Jemima Webber

Jemima is the Head of Editorial of Plant Based News. Aside from writing about climate and animal rights issues, she studies psychology in Newcastle, Australia (where she was born).

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E Camp
E Camp
1 month ago

Just wanted to respectfully note that male chicks born into the egg industry are not a different SPECIES than chicks raised for meat, they’d be a different BREED. Ultimately they’re all still chickens — whether male, female, young, or old.

Prem Kumar
Prem Kumar
1 month ago

May i know, What happens to them? If not culling?

Nicole
1 month ago
Reply to  Prem Kumar

They are going to use ovo-sexing technology, which are machines that can detect the gender of the chicks at the egg stage instead of after they are hatched.

Debbie
1 month ago

until they start using ovo-sexing, what’s going to happen to the male chickens?

Peter Mason
1 month ago
Reply to  Debbie

Well, according to the article on the Italian rights site, the technology is already in place. This is via DeepL Translate:
“As a result of this work, as early as 2020 the egg producers’ trade association Assoavi and the supermarket chain Coop were in favor of the introduction of in-ovo sexing technologies that could prevent the slaughter of male chicks.”
However, since the Spanish ban, which predates the Italian one, is worded as “…working towards” ending the practice, I should imagine that, where the tech isn’t set up, the status quo will prevail, which Animal Equality Italia describes as, “…Chopped alive or suffocated, the chicks will be culled immediately, within the first 24 hours of birth, and without the use of stunning techniques.” All the more reason to keep the pressure up.
By the way, this is an issue that could make a huge difference in the UK. Anyone know of a petition already up and running?

Elaine
Elaine
1 month ago

That is a great beginning to a cruel,ghastly policy practiced throughout the Western world.Now for The USA and The UK!

Elaine
Elaine
1 month ago

Where is a UK petition???

Peter
Peter
12 days ago

Wonderful news. Hope to see similar news in Canada. Despite having some wonderful farms in BC who treat their hens exceptionally well, they still buy sexed chicks / pullets from hatcheries that cull male chicks.

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