• Question Without Notice-Live maceration of newly hatched chicks in the egg industry

    Earlier this month an Australian-first investigation by Animal Liberation and Aussie Farms revealed the mass killing of ‘useless’ male chicks and the painful de-beaking of day-old females. This commodification and basis of worth placed on individual sentient beings is inevitable in the animal agriculture industry. The male chicks are seen as ‘wastage’, no different to the wastage in the greyhound industry, the females are a commodity producing machine with an expiry date. In response to this footage, I asked the Minister whether this unnecessary and unjustifiable suffering would be outlawed.

    MARK PEARSON: My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industries.

    The current egg production regulatory framework allows for the live maceration or gassing to death of millions of newly hatched male chicks as “industry wastage” because they are of no economic benefit to the industry. Gene technology can now differentiate between male and female chicks in the early egg incubation phase, with German researchers soon to release a commercially viable in-ovo sexing test that will result in the destruction of male embryo eggs prior to them developing sensibility and a capacity to feel distress and pain.

    Will the Minister advise when the Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry will be revised to prohibit the live maceration or gassing of male chicks as an unjustifiable practice?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR (Minister for Primary Industries, and Minister for Lands and Water): I thank the member for his question and for highlighting the research the industry is doing and its investment into advancements in chicken sexing in egg production. It is a good example of how our food and fibre primary producers are addressing issues of concern to consumers. They are investing a record amount into research and continuing to look at the innovation and technology available in Australia and around the world for their production processes. We should all be standing up and saying that is exactly what we want to see from a mature primary industries sector in this State. For example, they are investing in better techniques in animal husbandry and, as the member highlighted, in chicken sexing in the egg industry. That is what we ask of our industries.

    My point is that we do not need government to be telling industry what to do. In this case our primary producers are leading the charge and backing up their actions with record amounts of money. They are at the forefront of ensuring they are responsive to some of the issues in their industries. For further information, the industry is funding research by the CSIRO to enable the sexing of chickens in the early development phase in the egg. This will mean that sexing can occur close to point of lay and not require incubating and hatching of male chicks. The industry is doing that in cooperation with the CSIRO, which is a great example of how our primary producers are working within their industries. In some cases they do not need us to come down with a heavy hand and introduce legislation telling them what to do because they are already doing it.

    I have previously spoken in this House about our pork sector. I know the member is concerned about sow stalls. Again, the industry determined that it would voluntarily get rid of sow stalls and more than 70 per cent of the sector has gone down that path. That has not happened because we told them to do it; they were already doing it. They understood the issue and put their money where their mouth is. They are working with all producers to address those issues. I am proud of the primary producers in this State. They understand the issues that concern their consumers. Whether it is mulesing or egg or pork production, our producers are leading the charge. They do not need us to tell them what to do because they are already doing it.

    MARK PEARSON: I ask a supplementary question. Will the Minister please go to the specificity of the question, which relates to when in-ovo chick sexing is available will the Government amend the model code of practice to prohibit the maceration and gassing of male chicks?

    The Hon. NIALL BLAIR: I thank the member for his supplementary question. Without repeating too much of my previous answer, layer chickens are specifically bred for egg production and the male chickens are unsuitable for rearing for meat. Male layer chickens are killed upon hatching and sexing of the chickens at layer hen hatcheries. This is recognised practice in the industry globally. Maceration is a humane method of killing day-old chickens as the chickens are killed instantly. It is recommended in the current national Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry, fourth edition. The industry is funding research by the CSIRO to enable the sexing of chickens in the early development phase in the egg. This will mean that sexing can occur close to point of lay and not require incubating and hatching of male chicks.

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