GERMANY AND France are pushing to end the mass culling of male chicks at an EU level by the end of 2021.

Currently male chicks are separated from their mothers immediately after hatching and killed, as they do not lay eggs and generate less meat, making them unsuitable for food production.

As a result, tens of millions of males are killed in each country per year as producers say there is no practical, affordable and cruelty-free alternative.

But France and Germany plan to bring together industry groups, companies, researchers and campaign groups to share scientific knowledge and implement alternative methods.

Scientists in several countries are working on technologies to determine the sex of chicks before they hatch, but none are ready yet for industrial-scale use. One technique, developed by a German firm, involves using a laser to make a tiny hole to extract liquid from a fertilised egg, before testing it for the presence of a female hormone. Other scientists are even looking into genetically modified chickens.

Germany's agriculture minister Julia Klöckner hopes that Germany and France will be the 'European motor' to advance this issue and will push the agenda forward when Germany takes presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2020.

However, German farmers' group ZRF has warned that 'apparent solutions' via the law without a technical plan could depress domestic egg production in favour of imports, meaning the chicks would simply be exterminated somewhere else. There is concern that consumer demand for more environmental and animal welfare protections could increase the pressure on already financially squeezed farmers.