Male chicks are considered of no value by the food industry.
Photo:
dpa/Bernd Wüstneck

BerlinGermany will ban the routine slaughter of freshly hatched male chicks from January 2022. From then on, the animals' sex must be determined in the egg so that the male chicks don't hatch in the first place. The bill, presented by Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner (CDU) in Berlin on Wednesday, outlines a second phase: From January 2024, sex-identification methods that are effective before the seventh day of incubation must be used. The draft law says chicken embryos can feel pain from the seventh day onwards.

Forty-five million male chicks are killed each year, usually by shredding or gassing, because they can't lay eggs and don't produce enough meat to be of interest to the food industry. The incubation period for chickens is 21 days. According to the agriculture ministry, methods currently used are able to determine an unhatched chick's sex  between the 9th and 14th day of incubation. "Nevertheless," Klöckner said,"research is ongoing in order to be able to determine the sex in the egg at an even earlier stage."

She said killing freshly hatched chicks was ethically unacceptable and said the law made Germany a worldwide pioneer: a "milestone for animal welfare". 

For the Green Party, the measures are being introduced too slowly . Speaking to the newspaper taz,  Oliver Krischer, deputy leader of the Green parliamentary group, said that CDU agriculture ministers have been announcing the end of "chicken shredding" since 2015.

"The law must go into force now. Hatcheries should be required to implement the new technology immediately and not sometime in the next few years." He said the new technology would lead to additional costs of 2 cents per egg. "It's worth it."