Technology and Animal Welfare: We Can Get Rid of Culling
Anyone that has kept chickens is aware of what happens when one ends up with a surplus of male chicks (which grow up to become roosters): No eggs and a lot of fighting. The unfortunate truth is that the reality is the same for the egg industry, which deals with 4.93 billion egg-laying hens, producing close to one-trillion eggs per year (75 billion in the US alone). Naturally, a certain number of eggs need to be hatched and the chicks raised to continue the process of breeding and egg-laying. The ethical problem that culminates from this (outside of whether or not it is okay to eat the eggs) is as follows: Hens produce eggs without the help of a rooster, and are better suited to consumption. Thus, male chicks are required in much lower numbers.
So…what happens to them?
The average lifespan of a male chick is approximately seventy-two hours, and it doesn’t end well, at all. The process, “chick culling,” has been heavily-scrutinized by animal rights advocates for many years and is often shown for shock factor in videos exploring the darker practices of livestock farming. Without going into too much detail, a German government-funded scientist claims to have found a way to avoid the large-scale culling of approximately 45 million male chicks per year (this figure would only account for a German implementation, in the US it would be approximately 200 million chicks). The process itself regularly analogized to Nazi practices, was developed due to gender identification prior to hatching being extremely difficult in an excruciatingly fast-paced industry with high-end production goals.
The Dodo has noted in a recent article that, “animal welfare groups have never been fond of this little secret…some critics of the practice have even drawn connections between the chick-killing process and Nazi extermination efforts,” and “…it was in response to these welfare concerns that the German government funded the research into egg sexing methods.” The politics of Germany’s past aside, this is a very important step with regard to how animals are treated, especially in an industry where gender assigns a consumption-based value to the creature in question.