Aim of the poultry industry: killing chicks without end

The poultry industry does not want to commit to a phase-out. It merely pledges to halve the number of chicks killed by 2022.

The cute little chicks: May continue to be killed Photo: Bernd Wustneck/dpa

The poultry industry only wants to halve the number of cock chicks killed shortly after hatching by 2022. That’s according to a letter from the Central Association of the German Poultry Industry (ZDG), which was obtained by taz. The announcement met with sharp criticism from German Agriculture Minister Julia Klockner (CDU) and the consumer association Foodwatch. The ZDG did not want to comment.

In Germany, more than 40 million chicks of laying breeds are killed each year shortly after hatching because they are male. Because: They do not lay eggs and for the usual express fattening they grow too slowly because of the highly specialized breeds. That’s why most male chicks are suffocated with carbon dioxide on their first day of life. The Federal Administrative Court ruled in June that this was a violation of the Animal Welfare Act, but granted a transition period until alternatives are available.

That will take time, according to the poultry industry. "ZDG sets itself the goal of reducing the number of cock chicks killed by at least 50 percent in the course of 2022," the association writes. Sex identification using hyperspectral analysis should save 12 million, hormone testing 5 million, cock rearing 4 million and keeping dual-purpose chickens for egg as well as meat production 0.5 million roosters. In other words, a total of about 21.5 million. ZDG argues that the court did not order an immediate phase-out.

"The poultry industry’s proposal to reduce the number of day-old chicks killed by only 50 percent – and only by 2022 – is not acceptable," a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Agriculture told the taz newspaper. "The demand of politics and society is different, we do not accept that time is being played for." The goal, she said, is to phase out by "the end of 2021 at the latest." Klockner is seeking a voluntary commitment from industry.

Foodwatch pointed out that the CDU/CSU and SPD had committed in the coalition agreement to end chick killing in 2019: "If Ms. Klockner always relies only on voluntary solutions, she should not be surprised if she is pulled through the chicken coop on the nose ring by the poultry lobby."

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