Associations In Portugal Call For An End To EU’s Legal Practice Of Slaughtering Newborn Male Chicks

Image of chicks at an indoor farm.

Image of chicks at an indoor farm. Credit: David Tadevosian/

IN accordance with EU legislation, Portugal still permits the slaughter of male chicks within hours of their birth.

Some European countries have already banned this practice but it is still permitted in the EU. However, the European Commission is considering changes to the ruling.

After the People-Animals-Natureza Party (PAN) delivered a bill to the Assembly of the Republic that provided for a ban on this practice.

As a result, the slaughter of male chicks in the first hours of life will be discussed in Parliament, with the entity said to be ‘considering a ban’.

When the chicks are born, they are separated. Females are placed on one side and males on the other, with each sex facing a different destiny.

That is how egg production aviaries work. While the females will become laying hens, the males are not useful for the industry, so they are killed at birth.

The PAN document delivered to the Assembly of the Republic at the end of July called for the: ‘end of the method of slaughtering male chicks by grinding’.

More than 300 million male chicks are killed legally each year

It denounced that more than 300 million newborn male chicks were: ‘discarded and crushed alive’ legally in the European Union every year.

Their bill proposed that poultry farmers identify the sex of chicks while still in the embryonic phase. This way, only female eggs develop and death by crushing, asphyxiation, or electrification, is subsequently avoided.

Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and Austria, have already banned the practices of crushing and gassing chicks.

Speaking with SIC Notícias, the General Directorate of Food and Veterinary (DGAV) – which oversees the industry – explained that the killing of chicks is carried out in accordance with current community legislation.

It is carried out in such a way which guarantees that the: ‘regulation is applied in a harmonised manner’, thereby ‘avoiding distortions that could compromise the community market’.

Maria Jorge Correia, Head of DGAV’s Animal Welfare Division, added: ‘The killing of day-old chicks (death at birth) is provided for in current European Union legislation on Animal Welfare during slaughter or killing (Regulation 1099/2009, of September 24), which establishes the authorised methods for this practice’.

The European Commission is thought to be ‘considering the ban’

However, the European Commission is thought to be ‘considering the ban’, as part of its review of animal welfare legislation during slaughter and killing, explained the same source.

They added that Portugal ‘supports’ the intention to change. The ‘concrete proposal’ for revision should be presented by the end of the year and will then be discussed by the 27 Member States.

‘There are methods that could be used, such as egg sexing, which have demonstrated a good level of effectiveness, so their use could constitute a solution, in order to minimise the killing of male day-old chicks’, indicated the DGAV official.

At a meeting of the Council of Ministers of the EU, Portugal supported ‘a transition to the use of egg sexing systems’, that is, the identification of the sex of the chick in ovo form.

Associations in Portugal are calling for an end to the slaughter

Several Portuguese animal welfare associations are calling for an end to the slaughter of male chicks. Among them is Abrir de Asas (ADA), an association that is part of an international network of NGOs .

In December last year, the ADA created a collection of signatures calling for an end to the slaughter of male chicks. As explained to SIC Notícias by Joana Machado, the manager of the Abrir de Asas project, the petition wanted to raise awareness of the ‘cruel practices of the industry’.

Machado described how the females were: ‘vaccinated, with their beaks cut, and then packed in boxes and transported to egg farms’. The males are taken to a device with blades that ‘will crush them alive’.

Council Directive (EC) 1099/2009 of September 24, 2009, stated that this device must have: ‘sufficient capacity to ensure the instantaneous death of the animals’.

According to Joana Machado, since newly hatched chicks ‘are not included in the practice of stunning’, this method ‘contradicts the general objective of the regulation’.

A 2019 study found several problems with chick mashing

In 2019, an EFSA study identified several problems in protecting welfare during chick mashing. These included the use of machines with slow-rotating blades or the overloading of machines because this results in the intended speed being ineffective in practice.

As the manager of the Abra de Asas project insisted, in other words: ‘the chicks can be injured but still remain conscious and in pain’.

More than 2,670 signatures have been collected so far by the ADA and it is preparing a campaign to re-release the petition in the coming months. ‘Every year, almost 330 million chicks are killed in the European Union and 6.5 billion globally’, highlighted Joana Machado.

However, DGAV does not know how many male chicks are killed in Portugal, since establishments, according to current legislation, are ‘not obliged’ to report these data.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at