France fails to end culling of male chicks

An exception to a New Year's resolution by France to end the massive culling of male chicks will still allow millions to be killed, much to the consternation of animal rights activists.

France fails to end culling of male chicks

Worldwide, more than six billion male chicks are killed every year because they cannot lay eggs or get fat enough to be sold for meat, according to the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.

Following Germany’s lead, the French government announced it would ban the practice of culling as of January 1 this year.

Under the new rules, hatcheries must use in-ovo sexing technology — which determines the sex of unborn chicks — to stop males  from being hatched in the first place.

But producers gained permission to continue the culling of male white hen offspring — more than 10 percent of male chicks born in France every year — because it is more difficult to determine their gender.

The culling must be done using gas rather than the traditional technique of grinding.

French animal rights group L214 has sharply objected to the exception, calling it a “betrayal”.

Techniques used to identify the sex of unhatched chicks work better for some chicken types than others.

In red hens, in-ovo technology can look through the shell and detect the sex-specific colour of the chick’s first feathers.

For white hens, however, it does not work. Hormonal analysis does but is considerably more expensive and slower.

The eggs sold in stores come from red hens, while the eggs of white hens are used to make animal feed and other agro-industry products.

In December, scientists from the US-Israeli tech company Huminn said they had successfully created egg-laying hens that only produce female chicks.

The technology involves genetically modifying the hens so that male embryos do not progress and hatch.

Last June, 18 European NGOs formed a coalition demanding the end of chick and duck culling, a practice that is allowed under EU law.

The practice may yet be prohibited with a revision of EU legislation on animal welfare set to take place before 2025, according to L214.

Member comments

  1. I don’t understand this practice. We rear cockerels for meat and keep the hens for eggs. The cockerels are excellent at 6 months and a decent size (north of 2kg per bird finished weight). Surely rather than killing these excess birds they could sell them on to the very many folk who rear their own birds for meat. Mind you…they may see that as direct competition I guess…

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Howl of disapproval: French activists quit wolf talks

French conservation groups on Monday withdrew from government consultations about managing the wolf population, describing as "unacceptable" ministers' new proposals for checking the growing numbers of the once endangered predator.

Howl of disapproval: French activists quit wolf talks

“We have announced our definitive withdrawal from the National Wolf Group,” said Jean-David Abel of France Nature Environnement (FNE), speaking on behalf of six environmental associations.

Unveiled at the latest round of closed-door talks between environmentalists, elected officials, civil servants, the agricultural industry and hunters, the government’s wolf plan for 2024-29 has failed to satisfy either side, with farmers also complaining.

READ MORE: MAP: Where in France do wolves live?

“It’s not new for the government to listen to (farmers’ union) FNSEA, the (sheep farmers’ group) FNO and the chambers of agriculture, but when it’s this unbalanced we said to ourselves ‘we’re not doing any good here’ and it’s up to the state to take responsibility for that,” Abel said.

None of the environmentalists’ proposals made earlier this year were reflected in the final text, he added.

Wolves had vanished from France but began returning in the 1990s, with farmers saying they suffered 12,000 attacks on their animals last year.

Wolf numbers were estimated at 1,104 individuals by France’s biodiversity authority this month, based on indicators including tracks, overheard wolf howls, genetic analysis and others.

Current rules allow up to 19 percent of the population to be culled.

A government source told AFP that “wolves are no longer in danger, but on the other hand there is a real danger that shepherding might disappear”.

Despite environmentalists’ complaints, FNO representative Claude Font said that under the proposed plan, “the state is trying to have it both ways and is only making everyone unhappy”.

“We wanted something more ambitious for animal husbandry,” he added, saying “the only progress is on the protocol for shooting” wolves.

Another farmers’ union, Confederation Paysanne, said the text showed “extreme weakness, which cannot help but be seen as a fresh insult by farmers”.

Beyond France, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen warned earlier this month that “the concentration of wolf packs in some European regions has become a real danger for livestock and potentially also for humans”.

She announced a review of laws protecting the predators from hunters and called for local communities, scientists and officials to submit data on wolf numbers and their impact.