Following appeals from PETA India regarding the common poultry industry practice of killing male chicks (because they can’t lay eggs) and other unwanted chicks in cruel and illegal ways, the Commissionerate of Animal Husbandry, Maharashtra, has issued instructions to district animal husbandry commissioners and the district societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals to take action to stop the illegal killing of chicks. It further directs the use of in ovo sex-determination technology – which identifies male embryos at an early stage of development so that eggs rather than live birds can be destroyed – when it becomes commercially available in India. The directions were issued following instructions from the Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying & Fisheries, Maharashtra, on the issuance of the order.
The commissionarate also advises that in the meantime, unwanted chicks should be handled by methods prescribed by the World Organisation for Animal Health and the Animal Welfare Board of India. Currently, chicks unwanted by the egg and meat industries are killed via grinding, crushing, burning, drowning, or even being fed to fish.
In its appeals, PETA India pointed out that the usual cruel methods of killing unwanted chicks violate Section 11(1)(l) of The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The group requested that the state end any cruel killing methods practised by its poultry hatcheries and that the government require that the egg industry use in ovo sex-determination technology. This new technology has been developed abroad and is in use.
Following PETA India’s appeals, the animal husbandry departments of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Goa have committed to using in ovo sex-determination technology when it becomes available in India. Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jammu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, and Uttar Pradesh have issued orders directing an end to the current illegal and cruel chick-killing practices. Early this year, the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Egg Laying Hens) Rules, 2023 – which require that unwanted male chicks be euthanised in accordance with the guidelines prescribed by the World Organisation for Animal Health – were notified. However, farms don’t have to meet this bare-minimum requirement until 2029.
Around the world, countries are taking action to ban the killing of male chicks by the egg industry. Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and Luxembourg are prohibiting the killing of male chicks on various timelines. And nine EU countries are calling for a Europe-wide ban on the practice.