LAST UPDATED: 8 July 2021
The killing of day-old chicks happens in all commercial egg production systems, be they cage, barn, organic or free range. Male and female chicks born into the chicken meat industry face a similar fate if they aren’t considered to be ‘viable’.
Some 12 million chicks are killed on their first day of life in Australia every year ... simply because they have no economic value to the industry they’ve been born into.
And these routine mass killings are entirely legal.
Many people are shocked to learn that animals born into the category of ‘food’, or even ‘entertainment’, are excluded from the basic cruelty laws designed to protect our pets: those born into the category of ‘friend’. These exemptions are outlined in industry model codes of practice.
The Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry states that “culled or surplus newly hatched chicks that are destined for disposal ... must be killed promptly by carbon dioxide gassing or maceration.”
The killing of these animals is enshrined in our laws, as an acceptable cost of doing business.
Day-old chicks who are sick, injured or simply born male are gassed or ground up alive as standard practice in Australia's egg industry: cage, barn, free range or organic.
What this means, practically, is that once chicks are hatched, they are put onto a moving conveyor belt where they are sorted; males from females. If they are considered to be healthy, the female chicks will be transferred to a site where they will be grown to a specific size before being moved to a laying facility. This could be cage, organic, free-range or an indoor barn.
So even for the female chicks, it’s a game of Russian Roulette when it comes to the quality of life they will ultimately be afforded. Most of them will be killed at just 18 months old when they are 'spent' — meaning their egg production wanes — long before their natural lifespan would end.
For the boys, they’ll stay on the conveyor belt until the very end, when they will drop off into a metal grinding machine, called a ‘macerator’. Or they will be gassed to death with CO2.
Creating machines to kill chicks en masse is the clinical result of the egg industry’s drive for efficiency, as it strives to keep up with consumer demand. But consumers were never made aware of the true cost of this product ... the true cost of eggs.