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).
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.