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Chick, chick October 23, 2009

Posted by Angelique in Animal welfare.
Tags: , , , ,

About six weeks ago, I wrote a post on the killing of male baby chicks in the chicken industry. I lamented the fact that since male chicks have unappetizing meat and can’t lay eggs, all except the few who become breeders are killed after birth. Soon afterward, the charity group Mercy for Animals published an undercover video showing exactly how this is done in many hatcheries: by putting live chicks through a grinder.

Coming from an organization with the name Mercy for Animals, it’s no secret what the purpose of this video is – to make chicken production so physically and morally revolting that people will trade in their McNuggets for McVeggies. However, the agricultural industry newspaper AgWeek published an interesting rebuttal to the video claiming that the chicks, after all, die instantly in the grinder. A welfare scientist with the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) commented that “public revulsion … could force a shift to techniques that would be worse for the animals. Gassing male chicks, for example, might appear more humane, but chicks are resistant to the sedative effects and might suffer more…”*

Of course, reading all this I couldn’t help but engage in exactly the sort of anthropomorphism you’re supposed to avoid, and imagined myself shoved down the inverted cone of a grinder – feet first of course, Saw-fashion, to make it last. But that’s exactly the AVMA’s point: this imagined scenario doesn’t come close to what it’s like for the chicks, so anthropomorphizing is a waste of time, and what’s more, might incline one to make a decision that’s actually worse for the animals. Watching the video myself, I had to admit that the rate at which chicks were going through the grinder seemed to ensure that they were killed in no more than one or two seconds. Less fortunate were the chicks who fell through the cracks between conveyor belts and survived, maimed, scorched, and irrelevant to a business which has zero incentive to do the decent thing and grant them a quick death.

*N. Duara, “Hatchery Video a Reality Check for Some,” AgWeek (September 14, 2009): 27.



1. But it’s so warm and cozy in here « From Animal To Meat - December 26, 2009

[…] welfare research – it sometimes yields results that are both counterintuitive and important. My post on the use of grinding as a form of euthanasia for male chicks pointed out that although we […]

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