Animal Equality,1 a London-based animal rights group, sent investigators undercover to industrial chicken hatcheries, to expose the truth about what happens to baby chicks in the first 24 hours of their lives.
A HORRIBLE WAY TO ENTER THE WORLD
The chicks emerge from their shells in huge industrial incubators. The incubator trays are dumped onto conveyor belts where the just-hatched chicks are mechanically separated from their shells and propelled down the line to be separated by sex.
Chicks that are just a few hours behind in hatching are thrown in trash bins, as are any chicks that appear to be weak or sick.
Female chicks are separated from the males and mechanically shot through chutes into containers to be shipped to factory farms where they will be egg laying machines.
Males of the “broiler” variety are shot full of vaccines and then sent down chutes that deposit them into cramped transport bins and trucked to factory farms to be fattened at a rate makes them enormous enough to be slaughtered within 6 weeks. The video explains that if humans were fattened at this same rate, a human baby would weigh 600 pounds in just two months.
For many, the quest to raise such fat birds in such a short while has outpaced the ability of a chicken’s legs to develop enough to support the weight. This could be a sad blessing as it dooms birds to be thrown away before they are sent to an even more inhumane death at the slaughterhouse.
DEATHS OF THE “SURPLUS NEONATAL CHICKS”
The poultry industry has various unemotional names for the newborns that will never have a chance to live beyond their first few hours of life: “surplus neonatal chicks,” “nonsalable chicks,” “day-old poultry.”
According to Animal Equality: “All egg production, whether ‘free-range’ or battery [caged, factory farmed] involves the death of male chicks.”
It is shocking to learn that male chicks from egg laying breeds are culled from the females and killed either by being gassed with carbon dioxide or thrown into giant grinders. This grinding process is called “maceration.” According to American Veterinary Medical Association’s poultry euthanasia guidelines, these grinders should have rotating blades or projections to cause “immediate fragmentation and death” of the day-old chicks.2
Mercy for Animals, another group dedicated to exposing the cruelty in the factory farming industry also investigated and documented these at Hy-Line Hatcheries in Iowa–one of the world’s largest hatcheries for egg-laying chicks.
This method of killing is considered an acceptable means of euthanasia for the just-born chicks by the Federation of Animal Science Societies,3 Agriculture Canada,4 World Organization for Animal Health,5 and European Union.6 It is considered an advantage that large numbers of animals can be killed quickly, but it is considered a disadvantage that “macerated tissues may present biosecurity risks.”2
GAS CHAMBERS AND CRUSHERS
Before the grinders were developed, there were other favored means to destroy male chicks on a massive scale at hatcheries. Here is what one researcher from the University of Vienna suggested: “Euthanasia methods for day-old chicks must also be economical and should not interfere with the use of the carcasses for animal food or fertilizer…For larger numbers of birds, the literature recommends homogenization in a crusher.” He went on to describe a “simple gas chamber” that had “the capability to euthanize approximately 8,000 chicks within 2-3 hours at minimal cost.” 7
While the United Egg Producers (that represent 95% of the egg producers in the U.S.) has pledged to end the practice of using the giant grinding machines, they say it will take several years to develop embryo-sexing technology that will identify male eggs before they are ever hatched. Meanwhile EACH DAY 700,000 male chicks are tossed into the giant grinders or gassed. 8
The Animal Equality video has a call to action for viewers—asking us to become vegan or eat less chicken.
If you do eat chicken, it is important to source your foods locally, so you can ask your farmer if they buy chicks from these giant, cruel hatching operations. Hopefully, with time, consumers can exert pressure to ensure that all animals whose lives are consigned for human consumption are raised—and slaughtered—in the most humane conditions.
1Animal Equality. Collaborate. http://www.animalequality.net/collaborate/
2American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Guidelines on Euthanasia. June 2007.
3Federation of Animal Science Societies. Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Agricultural Research and Teaching. 3rd ed. Savoy, Ill: Federation of Animal Science Societies, 2010, p. 121.
4Agriculture Canada. Recommended Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Poultry from Hatchery to Processing Plant. Publication 1757/E. 1989. Ottawa: Agriculture Canada, 1989, pp. 5-6.
5World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). Terrestrial Animal Health Code, Appendix 3.7.6: Guidelines for the Killing of Animals for Disease Control Purposes. Paris: World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), 2007, p. 460.
6European Council. Council Regulation No 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009 on the Protection of Animals at the Time of Slaughter or Killing. Annex I: List of Stunning Methods and Related Specifications. Brussels: European Council, 2009, p. 303/19.
7Jaksch W. Euthanasia of Day-old Male Chicks in the Poultry Industry. Journal for the Study of Animal Problems, 1981; 2(4):203-213.
8Humane League. Eliminating Chick Culling in America Will Spare Millions of Hens and Chicks from Suffering. The Humane League Blog, June 20, 2016.
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