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Egg farmers label disturbing chick footage ‘opportunistic’

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The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) Egg Group president has slammed a campaign exposing the grinding of live baby chicks as suspiciously timed and “opportunistic”.

On Tuesday, activist group Animal Liberation released gruesome footage of day-old live male chicks being fed into a steel grinder at Specialised Breeders Australia (SBA) in Victoria.

But the VFF’s Bryan Ahmed told The New Daily the egg industry had been feeding millions of dollars into an alternative technique and was on the brink of being able to ditch the RSPCA-approved ‘maceration’ method.

Campaign manager Emma Hurst said Animal Liberation wanted the “lagging” Australian egg industry to follow Germany’s lead and pledge to phase out the technique by a set date.

Watch the footage below (warning: distressing content):

Ms Hurst said the upsetting footage was sent anonymously, presumably from a disgruntled SBA employee.

In Australia, male chicks are considered useless in the egg industry. In decades past, they were grown and eaten, but the VFF’s Mr Ahmed said the evolution of the chicken industry had changed that.

“They take too long to grow,” he said.

They would end up very expensive and they’re not as big as the meat birds that we grow now.

As a result, male chicks are either ground or gassed to death in Australia. Both practises are endorsed by the RSPCA and the Australian government, with the RSPCA preferring ‘macerating’.

Mr Ahmed said the industry had acknowledged the practise was both cruel and inefficient at least five years ago.

baby chicks ground alive
New technology could see the male eggs used for vaccines instead. Photo: Getty

He told The New Daily since 2011 the egg industry had poured over $5 million into the development of a new method that would be able to identify males before they hatched.

That research, led by CSIRO scientists Dr Tim Doran and Dr Mark Tizard, proposes injecting a fluorescent green protein gene onto the male chromosome.

That way the green eggs can be removed from the breeding plant and used for vaccine development instead.

baby chicks ground alive
Dr Tim Doran and Dr Mark Tizard think they have the answer. Photo: ABC

The study was presented to international breeding programs in March this year.

“We’ve worked had on this, it’s disappointing that animal activist groups use this as an opportunity to better themselves,” Mr Ahmed said.

“We’re on the brink of making a change and we think [Animal Liberation] want it to look like they’ve pushed it to happen.”

‘Give us a date’

Ms Hurst said the industry needed a push.

“We’ve heard they might make that commitment by the end of this month, but Australia has a bad reputation for dragging their feet on animal welfare issues,” she said.

Richard Raynor, CEO of Specialised Breeders Australia (where the footage was filmed), said they were “very keen to adopt [the new technology] as soon as it is commercially available”.

Mr Ahmed said they weren’t going to rush the implementation.

“It will be released when it can be done effectively … we’re not going to rush it because of animal rights groups,” he said.

baby chicks ground alive
German Maria-Elisabeth Krautwald-Junghanns has discovered an alternative. Photo: TOnline

Ms Hurst pointed to Germany and the USA as examples of countries that have already promised to ban or phase out macerating.

Next year, Germany will introduce a technology that identifies male chicks based on scattered light patterns. In America, United Egg Producers (which represents 95 per cent of the industry) has pledged to stop ‘shredding’ male chicks by 2020 using the same technology.

Ms Hurst argued the Australian industry should simply use the German technology, instead of waiting to implement the CSIRO method.

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