The egg industry's controversial culling of male chicks by maceration will be outlawed in France by the end of 2021, the Minister of Agriculture has announced.
"My colleague, German Minister of Agriculture Julia Klöckner, and I announced we were going to stop macerating chicks," Minister Didier Guillaume said.
The announcement follows a German court ruling in June 2019, which stated the current way of culling chicks "violates the country's laws against killing animals without a justifiable reason".
The delay in implementing the ban is to allow the industry to adopt new methods.
"We said [the ban would come into force] by the end of 2021. If we do it right now, what happens? There are no more eggs," Mr Guillaume said during a radio interview in response to a question about whether the ban could be imposed more quickly.
In industrial egg production, chicks hatch in hatcheries, whose owners then sell the future laying hens to farmers. Within 24 hours of hatching, male chicks are culled by a process known as quick maceration.
Male chicks are killed for two reasons: they cannot lay eggs and are not suitable for chicken-meat production. This is because layer hens are a different breed of poultry to those bred for meat production.
Healthy female chicks are transferred to a site where they are grown to a suitable size and then moved to a 'laying facility', which could be a cage, free-range or barn farm.
Mr Guillaume held a series of meetings last week with animal welfare associations and said further animal protection measures will be announced in the coming weeks. "The measures that will be taken by the government are very strong measures," he said. "I won't give any dates, because I will negotiate with farmers," he said.
One probable change is the cessation of live castration of piglets. "In the coming months, this will all be over," Mr Guillaume said. "But [nothing] can be done in spite of the profession, which must adapt its production methods to maintain efficiency and profitability if it wants to survive."
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