Germany to delay ban on slaughter of male chicks | News | DW | 09.09.2020

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Germany to delay ban on slaughter of male chicks

A new bill would postpone a ban ending the culling of male chicks in Germany until 2022. Critics say Berlin failed to seek an EU-wide stop to the practice, leaving Polish and Dutch egg imports unchecked.

German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner submitted a draft law Wednesday to prohibit the poultry industry's practice of killing day-old male chicks because they don't produce eggs and reputedly provide skimpier meat. If enacted, the bill would go into effect in January 2022.

Animal welfare advocates accused Klöckner of delaying the ban slated for this year — as agreed in 2018 by Chancellor Angela Merkel's incoming coalition — after growers largely ignored recommended prehatch identification methods.

Currently, 45 million day-old male chicks are killed annually in Germany, typically by gassing or mechanical shredding.

Klöckner's proposed amendment would nullify a "reasonable cause" loophole in Germany's animal protection law that bans "pain, suffering and harm," because "practicable" prehatch alternatives are now available.

Read more: No-kill chicken eggs go on sale in Germany

The bill presented by Klöckner also sets a second deadline of 2024 for unhatched males to be identified before the seventh day of incubation, when chicken embryos, according to the amendment, begin to feel pain. Hatching typically takes 21 days.

Last year, Germany's highest administrative court ruled that live culling must be phased out. The Agriculture Ministry outlined two ways to determine the sex of a chick before it hatches: One is a genetic test using a tiny egg-fluid droplet extracted before hatching; the other shines a spectroscopic light beam into the egg to identify males.

But neither alternative recommended by Klöckner's ministry has been widely adopted by hatcheries.

Female chick

Female chickens, like these chicks will become, lay eggs and taste better, firms say

Back door open via EU's single market?

Ahead of speaking in Berlin on Wednesday, Klöcker said German hatcheries had "had sufficient reason and time" to switch quickly to the alternative methods.

But, Friedrich-Otto Ripke, president of Germany's poultry farming association, said Klöckner's proposed change would still not remain "completely unproblematic."

Read more: Civil society groups in Germany demand 'radical' EU farm policy reform

Given the EU's single market, foreign growers, for example, Polish or Dutch hatcheries, could continue to kill male chicks on their first day of life.

"Only EU law can solve this dilemma," said Ripke.

An egg appears red in a test

There are tests to determine the sex of an embryo while still in the egg

Use alternatives 'immediately,' say Greens

Opposition Greens party spokesman Oliver Krischer said hatcheries must use the new technology immediately and not at some point in the next few years.

The new technology would lead, said Krischer, to a price hike of €0.02 to what retail consumers pay for an egg. "That's worth it," he said.

Chance lost at EU level, says FDP

Germany, as the current holder of the EU's rotating presidency, should have lobbied for uniform European framework poultry conditions, said Gero Hocker, agricultural spokesman for Germany's business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP).

Klöckner missed "a great opportunity," said Hocker, asserting that the Merkel government was pursuing a "cheap window-dressing policy" that would result in male chicks being killed "just over" the German border in the future.

Klöckner, a member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union, had told the daily Allgemeine Zeitung that it was unconscionable that chicks were killed "because they have a certain gender."

She urged consumers not to circumvent Germany's intended ban on gassing or shredding by purchasing eggs from abroad where male chick slaughter was likely to continue.

ipj/sms (dpa, AFP, KNA)

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