Chopped chicks


Chicks shredded, 5 billion each year globally. (1) If ostriches can hide their heads in the sand, humans must keep them out. And turn over a new leaf, following the example that – once again – comes from the



Wild sexing and vegetarian diet

Vegetarian diet.


European Vegetarian Union

(EVU) allows eggs, as well as palm oil, in the vegetarian diet. Not to mention in the first case the millions of chicks chopped up, in the second the hundreds of thousands of orangutans and other animals killed. (2)

Wild sexing. Chicks hatched from hatching eggs of laying hens, following sexing evaluation, are divided between females-selected for egg production-and males. The latter, on almost all farms, are culled for economic needs.

Male chicks could indeed be kept alive to become cockerels, but they are culled because their yield is lower than so-called broilers, which are specially selected for poultry meat production. (3) The question remains as to how it is possible and lawful to get rid of so many living beings for the sake of convenience in a society that claims to be interested in animal welfare. (4)

Coop Switzerland, the real example to follow

The only real alternative Is represented by the development of research. In the most ecological direction that is not cultivation

in vitro

of meats – as ventured by

synthetic biology

in the U.S. – but rather that of natural selection of the species.

Thus, Coop Switzerland-as part of an award-winning program to better ensure animal welfare-has selected a breed of chickens that enables both egg and meat production. (5) The costs are slightly higher than those of ‘economy’ production, and yet consumers are willing to face them, in the name of saving chicks’ lives.

We are currently working with our meat processing company Bell on over 30 projects to promote animal welfare. These include flagship projects, such as (…) the dual-purpose chicken to avoid the killing of male chicks in egg production‘ (Coop Suisse, 30 Animal Welfare projects)

Coop Switzerland was awarded the Best Retailer Innovation Award – by the NGO Compassion in world farming, at Expo Milano 2015 – precisely because of this initiative. Thus in Switzerland, following sexing, male chicks are raised as broilers, albeit at higher costs and lower yields, rather than being culled. While the females, according to script, are intended for egg production.

Chopped chicks, alternatives

Technological research-in the Netherlands and Germany, as well as in the U.S.-is geared toward the development of instruments capable of performing sexing (i.e., distinguishing the sex of the creature) as early as the embryonic stage, at egg laying.

The debate continues, meanwhile, on the most appropriate methods of culling male chicks after sexing. The most common technique is maceration, that is, instant crushing of the entire animal. Another technique is water immersion electric shock.

Maceration-which it would be more correct to redefine as ‘shredding’-has the advantage of ensuring the instantaneous death of animals without exposing workers’ health to risk. It therefore receives support from several organizations, such as theAmerican Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Human Slaughter Association (HSA).

The seemingly most
is exposure to carbon dioxide at high concentration. (8) However, several studies show that CO2 at high concentrations causes aversion and pain, while at low doses it can induce panic reactions. With high risk of chicks suffocating, among other things, due to their being crammed into containers. Despite the favorable positions expressed by Efsa, this method is therefore opposed by the Humane Slaughter Association (HSA) itself.

The European legislator, after all, in describing the permissible methods–places only one limitation, which concerns the timing of the execution of the chicks, no more than 72 hours old. In the continuing wait for consistent European policies on animal welfare. (8) The only legislative proposal to ban the culling of male chicks was debated and rejected by the German Parliament in 2016.

Dario Dongo and Tommaso Di Paolo


(1) Source, Compassion in world farming . There could be about 40 million male chicks culled each year in Italy, compared to a production of about 840 thousand tons of eggs by at least 41 million hens

(2) See study Global Demand for Natural Resources Eliminated More Than 100,000 Bornean Orangutans, on

(3) Chanterelles, i.e., chickens from laying hens, require on average at least twice as much time, and thus twice the cost of rearing, to bulk up as chickens selected for meat production. And they are less valued, commercially, because they tend to be thinner

(4) To be fair, there is also the question of how eggs derived from such supply chains can be considered compatible with a vegetarian diet

(5) Cf.

(6) The video on Vimeo,

(7) This method consists of direct (albeit progressive) exposure of animals to a gas mixture containing more than 40 percent CO2. Its use is permitted for poultry, except ducks and geese, in situations with a fate other than slaughter

(8) See reg. EC no. 1099/2009, Annex I