Following an appeal from PETA India regarding the common poultry industry practice of killing male and other unwanted chicks in illegal ways, the director of Goa’s Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services issued directions to district officials and poultry hatcheries to stop using cruel and illegal chick-killing methods. Instead, hatcheries will adopt the method prescribed by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and established under the draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Egg Laying Hens) Rules, 2019, to handle unwanted chicks. Through the order, the state government also made a pioneering policy decision that once in ovo sex-determination technology – which identifies male embryos at an early stage of development so that an egg, rather than a live bird, can be destroyed – is commercially available in India, the state will adopt it.
Currently, the egg industry commonly kills male chicks because they can’t lay eggs, while both the meat and egg industries routinely destroy other unwanted chicks, including those who are weak or deformed. Common killing methods include grinding, crushing, burning, or drowning them and even feeding them alive to fish.
In our appeal, we pointed out that the common cruel methods of killing unwanted chicks violate Section 11(1)(l) of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. We requested that the state end any cruel killing methods practised by poultry hatcheries and that the government require that the egg industry use in ovo sex-determination technology as soon as it becomes available. This new technology is being developed abroad and will be commercially available soon.
At PETA India’s urging, the animal husbandry departments of Assam, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh have also supported the use of in ovo sex-determination technology. Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh have issued similar orders directing an end to current illegal and cruel chick-killing practices.
Germany – which has invested €5 million (Rs 400 million) in sex-determination technology – as well as France and Switzerland have taken steps towards banning the shredding of live male chicks, which is commonly practised abroad.