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FARMING

Germany to be ‘first country’ to end shredding of male chicks

Germany is set to be the first country to ban mass shredding of male chicks in the poultry industry, the government said Wednesday after approving a draft law on the controversial practice.

Germany to be 'first country' to end shredding of male chicks
Photo: DPA

The measure passed by the cabinet envisages a ban on mass chick killing from 2022 in “a significant step forward for animal welfare,” Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner said in a statement.

In many poultry businesses, male chicks are separated from females soon after hatching and shredded or gassed as they do not produce eggs and generate less meat.

Tens of millions of males are culled in Germany every year.

Animal welfare activists have long campaigned to end the practice but farmers have complained there is no practical, affordable and cruelty-free alternative.

But methods to determine the sex of chicks before they hatch are available to farmers, according to the government.

'First in the world'

One technique, developed by a German firm, involves using a laser to make a tiny hole to extract liquid from a fertilised egg, before testing it for the presence of a female hormone.

“We have invested millions of euros in alternatives, bringing animal welfare and economic efficiency together on German soil,” Klöckner said.

READ ALSO: Germany and France push EU to end shredding of male chicks

Saying Germany would be “the first in the world” to proceed in this way, Klöckner stated it wants to “set the pace and be a role model for other countries”.

From 2024, the draft law will also require poultry farmers to use methods that work at an earlier stage in the incubation process, preventing pain for the unhatched embryos.

The European advocacy group Foodwatch criticised the move, saying it did not go far enough in an industry that also causes suffering for animals in other ways.

“If only the cruel practice of killing chicks in Germany is ended, this will change absolutely nothing about the unbearable suffering of laying hens,” said Martin Rücker, executive director of Foodwatch.

'Partial solution'

The German Poultry Association said the plans were only a “partial solution to the problem”, claiming they would also lead to “immense competitive disadvantages” for German poultry farmers.

The association said it welcomed the phasing out of chick culling but saw “serious shortcomings” in the draft law, including that it would not apply anywhere else in Europe.

The legislation must next be approved by the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

Germany and France committed in January 2020 to work together to end the practice of chick shredding by the end of 2021.

French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume has also committed to outlawing the practice in France from the end of 2021.

Switzerland banned the shredding of live chicks last year, but still allows them to be gassed.

In June 2019, a German court ruled that the slaughter could continue until a method was found to determine the sex of an embryo in the egg.

An EU directive from 2009 authorises shredding as long as it causes “immediate” death for chicks less than 72 hours old.

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ENVIRONMENT

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction

Campaigners began a legal challenge against five German regions on Monday to force them to take stronger action on climate change, emboldened by a landmark recent court ruling in favour of environmental protection.

Young activists take German states to court over climate inaction
Demonstrators from the Fridays for Future movement protest in Gießen, Hesse, with a sign saying "No wishy-washy, no climate lashing". Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

The plaintiffs are basing their case on a sensational verdict by Germany’s constitutional court in April which found that Germany’s plans to curb CO2 emissions were insufficient to meet the targets of the Paris climate agreement and placed an unfair burden on future generations.

In a major win for activists, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s federal government then brought forward its date for carbon neutrality by five years to 2045, and raised its 2030 target for greenhouse gas reductions.

READ ALSO: 

On Monday, 16 children and young adults began proceedings against the regions of Hesse, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saarland, with support of environmental NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH).

They are charging that none of the states targeted by the legal action have passed sufficiently strong climate legislation at the local level, according to DUH.

“The federal government can’t succeed on its own,” lead lawyer Remo Klinger said in a press conference, highlighting state competence in the area of transport.

DUH worked closely together with the youth climate movement Fridays For Future to find activists willing to front the challenges, the group said.

Seventeen-year-old plaintiff Alena Hochstadt said the western state of Hesse, known for its Frankfurt banking hub, had always been her home but she feared having “no future here”.

Concern about the risk of “floods, storms and droughts” led her and other campaigners to seek “a legal basis for binding climate protection”.

READ ALSO: Climate change made German floods ‘more likely and more intense’

Hesse’s ministers for climate and the economy said they were “surprised” by the announcement.

“DUH clearly has not yet understood that we in Hesse are well ahead,” Priska Hinz and Tarek Al-Wazir said in a joint statement, drawing attention to an energy future law from 2012, before the Paris climate agreement.

In July, DUH-supported activists took the states of Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia and Brandenburg to court on similar grounds.

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