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HEED THE CULLING: Ending the billions of day-old chicks from being shredded, gassed, and suffocated

Animal rights groups suggest that quibbling over a technological solution to 'chick culling' distracts from what they see as the real problem at hand: the egg industry itself.

JONATHAN MOENS: Every year, up to 7 billion day-old male chicks are tossed into shredding machines, gassed, or suffocated in plastic bags—a process known as “chick culling.” This grim ritual is underpinned by both biology and economics: Male chicks don’t lay eggs, and they fatten up too slowly to be sold as meat. Across the globe, culling has become the default strategy for the egg industry to eliminate unwanted hatchlings.

“It is horrible. You see these puffy, newly hatched chicks on a conveyor belt,” headed toward a large blade that slices them “into a gazillion pieces,” says Leah Garcés, president of Mercy for Animals, an animal-rights advocacy group in the United States. In recent years, local and international animal-rights groups, particularly in France, Germany, and the U.S., have been ramping up pressure on governments and the egg industry to commit to ending the practice—particularly given technological innovations that allow producers to identify the sex of a developing chick before it hatches. The process is called “in-ovo-sexing,” and such technologies, versions of which are already deployed in some countries, can obviate the need for live chick culling…

Nearly five years ago, United Egg Producers, an agricultural cooperative whose members are responsible for producing more than 90 percent of all commercial eggs in the U.S., released a statement pledging to eliminate chick culling by 2020, or as soon as a “commercially available and economically feasible” technology became accessible. That pledge was negotiated with the Humane League, an animal-rights nonprofit organization. But 2020 has come and gone, and although UEP’s pledge wasn’t legally binding, some egg-industry leaders and scientists say there is little sign that the industry is anywhere near phasing in cull-free technologies that could still meet the colossal supply of more than 100 billion eggs produced every year in the U.S… What’s clear is that as the hunt for a solution drags on, the U.S.-based culling continues apace…

To be sure, some animal-rights groups suggest that quibbling over a technological solution distracts from what they see as the real problem at hand: the egg industry itself. “Instead of putting a Band-Aid on a Band-Aid on a Band-Aid and trying to fix all these problems with more technology and more technology, here’s another idea: Why don’t we do plant-based eggs?” Garcés says. She and other activists point to food waste, animal suffering, and health-associated costs as reasons to divest money away from the egg industry to support companies that produce plant-based alternatives. SOURCE…

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