Alternatives to Killing Male Day-old Chicks Explored at Wageningen

NETHERLANDS - For finding alternatives for the killing of male day-old chicks, research shows a number of leads but no method is ready to be applied in practice. This was the conclusion of a symposium organised by Wageningen UR on 8 September.
calendar icon 16 October 2014
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The symposium was attended by 40 participants from the poultry breeding and hatchery sector, research organisations, Ministry of Economic Affairs, and NVWA. The current status and outcome of various research projects on alternatives for killing day-old chicks, and the societal and ethical implications thereof, were presented and discussed.

The upcoming legislation on killing day-old chicks in a number of German states may give even more impetus to efforts to find alternatives. Sexing of eggs before incubation would be most ideal, as no developed embryo is killed in that way.

No ready method is available, however, although the obtained results suggest there may be more possibilities. Sexing during incubation, e.g. on day nine or 10, is possible, but may be difficult or expensive to implement in practice.

It was shown that hens can be treated to lay fewer male eggs. However, these treatments were intended for research purposes and cannot be applied in practise. Methods that make use of genetic modification are currently not investigated because of insufficient public support.

Ethical considerations try to weigh arguments such as intrinsic value, utilization, length of life, and ecological footprint. Solving one problem gives rise to new dilemmas.

Charlotte Rowney

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