Male chicks are useless to the egg industry. Since they don’t lay eggs and aren’t bred to be large enough to be profitable to the meat industry, they’re treated like “waste products” – and around 12 million are gassed or shredded to death every year in Australia.
Now, new “embryo-sexing” technology aims to modify chicken embryos genetically, leading only female chicks to be hatched.
This technology, which is still in its infancy, is not expected to be introduced for a number of years, but it aims eventually to end the current barbaric practice of throwing live chicks into a macerator to be ground up alive or gassing them to death – which can cause chicks to gasp and shake their heads for up to two minutes before finally dying.
What this technology can’t change is the suffering of female chicks, who will continue to be abused and exploited like their mothers so humans can eat eggs.
The egg industry is rife with cruelty, and recent regulations allow even “free-range” chickens to be crammed 10,000 to a hectare. So eliminating male chicks will not eliminate the suffering of animals for egg production.
Richard Rayner, chief executive of Specialised Breeders Australia, welcomed the changes but seemingly not because of concern for animals. Calling this a “consumer perception issue”, he then went on to say this:
“It’s not a welfare issue as they do get killed humanely.”
It’s chilling that someone in such a prominent position within the industry (Specialised Breeders Australia accounts for up to 70 per cent of the 13 million female chicks hatched and sold to egg farmers each year) believes that gassing animals or grinding them up alive is “humane”.
Bede Burke, a caged-egg farmer from Tamworth who receives 27,000 female chicks from Specialised Breeders Australia every 20 weeks, also didn’t appear to be concerned about animals but rather about profits, saying this:
“Killing half your chickens and disposing them is a massive cost, and in ovo sex determination solves part of the problem.”
There’s a simpler solution to the cruelty inherent in egg production: we could simply eat something else.
It’s never been easier to choose cruelty-free plant-based foods – and eggs are extremely simple to replace in both cooking and baking. With the discovery of aquafaba, it’s now even possible to make fluffy meringues without harming chickens.