Italian politicians have presented an amendment to farming legislation for banning the egg industry from killing male chicks soon after hatching. Currently, the egg industries in most countries typically kill male chickens within 24 hours after hatching, while hens are killed a few months later so their eggs can be stollen for food consumption. The new amendment, presented by Francesca Galizia, a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, would make this gender discrimination unlawful by the end of 2026. It also supports the introduction and development of in-ovo sexing technologies capable of identifying the gender of the chicks inside the eggs, so eggs carrying male embryos can be destroyed before hatching.

Because males cannot lay eggs, the egg industry considers male chicks useless for production, as they don’t want to keep them alive to grow meat as they are from a different breed than the more common “broiler” chickens — genetically modified to grow big and fast for the meat industry. For this reason, billions of male chicks are killed right after hatching every year by shredding them alive — the chicks are fully conscious while their bodies are being ground up —  by suffocation or electrocution. In the United States alone, around 260 million male chicks are killed every year in this manner.

In 2020, Animal Equality Italy launched a campaign to draw attention to the fate of male chicks and asked the government and the Italian egg industry to put an end to these methods of killing. A petition has already gathered over 100 thousand signatures. France, Germany, and Spain are introducing similar legislation which may end this practice as early as 2022, and the EU Commission has launched a public initiative to look into this issue. In New Zealand, nearly 3 million recently hatched male chicks are killed each year either by gassing or by being minced alive with “maceration”. 

If in a few years these bans (and current technological advances) prevent chickens of any gender to be born into the egg industry, this is good news. But if it only means that chicks from one gender will be replaced by those from another, they are still killed inside the egg when already feel pain, or it will allow the egg industry to grow by claiming they are now producing more “humane” eggs — while torturing even more animals by the way they breed them, feed them, keep them and kill them — one could easily see this news as “too little too late.” 

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.