The French government has banned live shredding of unwanted male chicks in the poultry industry and castrating piglets without anaesthesia.
About 7 billion male chicks are shredded alive in industrial macerators, gassed or suffocated to death around the world every year.
Male chickens are unwanted in the poultry industry because they cannot be sold to lay eggs or used for meat. The poultry industry began breeding separate meat- and egg-producing chicks in the 1920s. Since then, there was no need to keep males of the egg-producing chickens.
Eggs producers argue that raising male chickens is a waste of money and that killing them using a high-speed grinder is the cheapest option.
Germany and Switzerland have also recently banned shredding chicks.
However, in Germany, the courts ruled eggs producers could continue crushing male chicks to death until the industry develops a scaleable method of determining the sex of an embryo in an egg. The current process is not possible to carry out on an industrial scale. In Germany, about 45 million male chicks are slaughtered every year.
Shredding of chicks is permitted in the EU law if the bird is less than 72 hours old.
France is the first countries to ban the use of all these methods.
“The aim is to oblige firms ... to do this by the end of 2021,” said France’s agriculture minister Didier Guillaume.
He said he hoped the poultry industry would find means of determining the sex of an embryo before the chicks hatch out from the egg.
France has also banned the castration of piglets without anaesthesia, according to AFP.
Boars are castrated so they put on weight. The fat in the meat from uncastrated pigs also gives off a stronger smell when cooked, and is known as “boar taint”. But boar taint only usually affects 20 per cent of uncastrated pigs.
In the UK, maceration is also allowed, but it is more common to kill male chicks using gas.
British animal rights activists hope the law will also be adopted in the UK soon.
British organisation Animal Aid said they welcome “the positive news that France is to spare millions of male chicks from these practices and hope that other countries will also take action.”
A spokesperson for Animal Aid told The Independent: “However, we are hugely saddened that many French egg-laying hens continue to spend their short lives imprisoned in cruel cages. We would like to draw readers’ attention to the fact that sadly, the UK egg industry treats male chicks as though they are inanimate waste products, not living, breathing animals who are all individuals and feel pain and suffering. They are routinely gassed at just a day old.
“Laying hens, even in free-range systems, can be crammed many thousands at a time into noisy, dusty, filthy sheds, some never able to access the outdoors. This is a far cry from the deceptive imagery on egg box packaging, with happy hens roaming freely in the sunshine, abundant grass underfoot. Once their laying declines and they are no longer deemed economically viable, they are typically crammed into crates and trucked off to the slaughterhouse at just a fraction of their natural lifespan.
“But really, we have no need to use and abuse animals in food production. The best thing we can do to help end this shocking cruelty is to give up eggs and other animal products and embrace a cruelty-free, vegan diet instead.”