Killing of male chicks, banned in Italy only starting from 2027

Killing of male chicks

Animal welfare is not at the top of the minds of the Italian government which has introduced the ban on the slaughter of male chicks only starting from 2027, subject to further extensions. (1)

1) Killing of male chicks, introduction

Selective killing of male chicks, or ‘sexing’ or ‘sexing’ – which the GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade) website has been reporting since 2018 (2) – is the macabre consequence of an exaggerated genetic selection, in recent decades, aimed at breeding chicks more productive laying hens.

6,5 billion male chicks that are born from these genetic lines every year are exterminated after the eggs hatch since their breeding as broiler chickens is not advantageous, from an economic point of view, compared to those of genetic lines specifically selected for this latter purpose (broilers).

The extermination of male chicks remained out of the spotlight until 2015, when Coop Suisse announced at the Milan Expo that it had put an end to it thanks to the selection of a breed of Gallus gallus domesticus suitable for both egg and poultry production. Coop Italia has followed up on the good example, starting from 2019. (3)

2) Animal Slaughter Regulation

Animal Slaughter Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 should in theory protect animals, in the Old Continent, during the phases that precede and accompany killing for food production and other purposes (e.g. production of skins and furs, depopulation). (4) In fact, the regulation indicates:

– a general principle according to which animals must always be killed after stunning, so that the loss of consciousness and sensitivity is maintained until the animal dies (Article 4),

– the methods to be followed for the slaughter of animals (Annex I),

– broad exemptions which include scientific experiments under the control of competent authorities, hunting and recreational fishing activities, ‘cultural’ or sporting events, killing of certain animals (i.e. poultry, rabbits, hares) by their owners for private domestic consumption (5,6 ,XNUMX).

Male chicks they can be killed without stunning – as an exception to the aforementioned general principle, within 72 hours (3 days) of life – through ‘maceration’ (i.e. shredding with rapidly moving blades) or asphyxiation with CO2.

3) Sexing and animal welfare. European starvation, national bans

The European Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen – in addition to having dragged the EU into the most serious social and economic crisis of the last century – it failed both to adopt the Animal Health Law proposal and to follow up on five European Citizens’ Initiatives (ECI ) on animal welfare. (7) The killing of male chicks, ça va sans dire, it wasn’t even considered.

The first prohibitions sexation were therefore introduced at a national level. Switzerland is the first country in the world to have introduced a ban on the culling of male chicks, starting from 1 January 2020. France and Germany have in turn required egg hatchery managers to use, by 2022, machines that allow you to identify the sex of the chicks before the eggs hatch. (8)

4) Italy, ban on the selective killing of male chicks

The ban on felling selective in Italy – already announced in the European delegation law 2021 (9) – applies only starting from 1 January 2027, to male chicks of hens (Gallus gallus domesticus) that come from breeding lines oriented towards the production of eggs not intended for hatching (i.e. eggs intended for marketing as food. Law 205/23, article 1). With the following exceptions:

– sex identification not carried out within a reasonable period of time,

– sexing errors, (10)

– emergency situations, (11)

– prevention of animal diseases, or the protection of animals and/or the health and safety of people,

– scientific experiments and depopulation plans (Article 3).

It will still be banned the maceration of male chicks, the killing of which can follow the other methods provided for in Annex I to the regulation. (EC) n. 1099/2009 and must always be carried out under the control of the public official veterinarian of the competent ASL.

4.1) Sexing technologies

The hatcheries are equipped with instruments that allow the sex of the embryo to be determined as soon as possible and in any case no later than the fourteenth day after incubation‘ (law 205/2023, article 4. Sexing technologies).

4.2) Reuse of the remains of male chicks

The remains of the chicks killed, in the first three cases listed above) of derogation from the ban (see paragraph 4), the chicks can be used for animal feed. A completely useless provision, as this use is already covered by the applicable European regulations.

Hypocrisy of government has reached the point of foreseeing the hypothesis – equally redundant, as well as unrealistic – that the male chicks can come alternatively’entrusted to non-profit organizations and associations, including those involving the protection of animals‘. (12)

4.3) Sanctions

The violation of the Italian regulations on the ban on the selective killing of chicks and the use of alternative methods to maceration will result in the application of an administrative fine of between €5.000 and 50.000. The absence of an official veterinary surgeon during the slaughter will be punished with a fine of between €5.000 and 15.000, without prejudice to the possibility of a crime.

5) Application of in-ovo sexing

The real news – in the national regulations being developed in the Old Continent – ​​examination, is the imposition on managers of egg incubators to use technologies for in-ovo sexing. The aim of these technologies is to identify the sex of the embryo as soon as possible in order to kill the male, ideally, by the sixth day of incubation. In fact, it could already feel pain between the seventh and fourteenth day, certainly after the fifteenth day. (13)

Main technologies for in-ovo sexing (Animal Equality, 2020)
Fig. 1 – Main technologies for in-ovo sexing (Animal Equality, 2020)

According to bioethics, raising poultry breeds capable of fulfilling both egg and meat production needs should be the only truly acceptable solution. But politics and economics are indifferent to you. Italian legislation limits itself to imposing, starting from 2027, the use of instruments capable of intercepting the sex of the embryo by
fourteenth day of incubation. Subsequent ministerial decrees should adopt guidelines to promote:

– the use of the most advanced technologies for in-ovo sexing,

– technological improvement and monitoring of results (e.g. sex detection times and error rates during sexing),

– the structural adaptation of hatcheries for the adoption of technologies;

– information campaigns on the supply chain of origin of eggs and egg products, through suitable ‘labelling’.

Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna


(1) Legislative Decree 7 December 2023, n. 205. Adaptation of national legislation to the provisions of Regulation (EC) no. 1099/2009, relating to the protection of animals during killing

(2) Dario Dongo, Tommaso Di Paolo. Chopped chicks. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(3) Marta Strinati. Chopped chicks, the Coop says Basta. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(4) Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing. Consolidated text (14.12.19)

(5) The European legislator has not had the courage to establish uniform rules on ritual slaughter, which thus remains entrusted to the decisions of the member countries. See the previous article by Dario Dongo. Ritual slaughter, green light from the EU Court of Justice to the obligation of reversible stunning. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(6) Dario Dongo. Clandestine slaughter, the outlawed rule. #Clean shovels. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(7) Dario Dongo. Animal welfare, open letter from civil society to the European Commission. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(8) Dario Dongo, Giulia Orsi. France and Germany ban killing male chicks. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(9) Marta Strinati. Stop the culling of male chicks by 2026. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 4.8.22

(10) Misidentifications of sex related to the sensitivity and percentage of reliability of the technology used

(11) unexpected interruption of the functioning of the machinery used to determine the sex of the embryo

(12) The requirements of bodies and associations must be identified with an implementing decree of the Ministry of Health, to be adopted within ninety days from the date of entry into force of the legislative decree. lgs.

(13) Dörte Röhl. (2020). In-ovo sexing, an alternative to culling day-old chicks. Animal Equality

(14) Di Concetto A. et al. (2023). Chick and Duckling Killing: Achieving an EU-Wide Prohibition

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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Graduated in Food Technologies and Biotechnologies, qualified food technologist, he follows the research and development area. With particular regard to European research projects (in Horizon 2020, PRIMA) where the FARE division of WIISE Srl, a benefit company, participates.