A victory for chicks: the EU Commission to propose the end of male chick culling


A victory for chicks: the EU Commission to propose the end of male chick culling

28 October 2022

At the Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AGRIFISH) this month, Commissioner Stella Kyriakides announced that the European Commission will put forward a proposal to end the ‘disturbing’ systematic practice of killing male chicks across the EU.

For years, the fate of male chicks has been a key concern at Eurogroup for Animals

As male chicks do not contribute to food production, they have been viewed commercially as both a burden and without value to the food and farming industries. Tragically, the ‘solution’ has therefore been to kill them when they are around one day old: often by grinding or gassing, the focus of the Stop Grinding and Gassing campaign orchestrated by L214. 

As the response to their campaign suggests, this issue has been one that many animal advocacy groups have lobbied passionately for, resulting in some powerful isolated actions across the EU. Deutscher Tierschutzbund helped to ensure that chick culling will be banned by the end of 2022 in Germany. Elsewhere, thanks to the tireless efforts of Animal Equality, this routine killing will stop in Italy from 2026, which will curb the death and suffering of an estimated 35 million male chicks per year. Austria, Luxembourg and France have also all outlawed the practice, and are actively looking for alternative - humane - solutions for what to do with male chicks.  

Despite these fantastic achievements, however, there has not been an EU legislative ban on their systematic slaughter… yet. That’s why, earlier this year, we at Eurogroup for Animals - along with 17 amazing NGOs - wrote an open letter to the Council of the EU, asking for this to be included in the upcoming revisions to the animal welfare legislation. Judging by the response at AGRIFISH last week, our words have resonated.

Putting male chicks on the EU’s radar

In a public consultation at AGRIFISH on October 17, agriculture ministers from across the EU discussed the nuances of a law to end the killing of male chicks, highlighting the ethical and practical issues of the brutal action and the alternatives that could be pursued. 

In the Annex presented to the ministers, it was acknowledged that the culling runs contrary to what EU consumers expect regarding ‘better animal welfare’, though it was agreed at the same time that ending the practice would be ‘a major challenge for the sector’. 

Representatives from Member States such as Spain and Sweden stressed that the use of technology will be vital in forging a new future for male chicks, while ministers from Hungary, Ireland and Croatia voiced the need for robust impact assessments to help navigate an EU-wide ban. It was also recognised that countries like France and Germany are paving the way in this field, having already committed to the ban and being in the process of finding alternatives to managing male chicks - potentially providing good models that other EU countries can follow. 

Ultimately, our takeaway from the consultation was positive, with attendees broadly agreeing on one major point: that the killing of male chicks is unethical and should be banned. More than being immoral, it is also unsustainable, and does not complement the kind of food systems the EU is working towards. There is no place for the practice in our future.

Change is on the horizon

“It is real progress to hear Commissioner Kyriakides say that this unethical practice is going to be banned at EU level and that, although economic factors should be part of the decision, the ethical arguments are the most important ones,” our Farm Animal Programme Leader, Inês Ajuda, commented. “These declarations clearly demonstrate how the new animal welfare legislation needs to be based on ethical grounds, and built on the consideration that kept animals are sentient beings.”

Creating a law to end the senseless slaughter of male chicks would be a major win for animals across the EU, and we’re dedicated to doing our part to make sure it happens. Watch this space!