France is to ban the culling of male chicks and the castrating of piglets without anaesthesia, ministers announced — a move welcomed by animal welfare groups.
"Two principles guide these announcements: ambition and rationality," agriculture minister Didier Guillaume told reporters, adding that "animal welfare is the future of animal husbandry".
The two measures are to be introduced by the end of 2021.
Several billion male chicks are culled worldwide every year in the 24 hours following their hatching because they don't lay eggs and they're less meaty than their female counterparts. France and Germany, which will also ban male chicks shredding in 2021, account for 90 million of those annually.
Since 2016, the two countries have invested €4 million to deploy a method to determine the sex of the chick in ovo — before they're hatched — and will invest a further €300,000 to test other alternatives, Guillaume also said.
They join Switzerland whose ban was introduced on January 1.
France will also ban the castrating of piglets without anaesthesia.
Some 80% of male piglets are castrated in the EU, according to the Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) animal welfare group. This long-standing practice prevents a potent "boar" smell from emanating when the meat is cooked and reduces the animal's aggressiveness.
Animal welfare groups have cautiously welcomed the announcement.
The CIWF labelled it as "progress" but stressed: "We have to put this announcement into perspective: castration remains authorised while there are accessible alternatives: keeping the male whole or immunocastration. The real announcement would be to set a deadline for stopping castration."
Another group, L214, said the measures were "ambitious" but deplored that an action plan, or the law registration had not yet been set.
Last year, the PETA animal group filed a complaint at the German Federal Constitutional Group, alleging that castrating piglet infringes on piglet's fundamental rights.
"The castration of piglets—with or without anaesthesia—is in clear violation of this, giving Germany’s male piglets only one option: to sue for the enforcement of their rights in court," it said in a statement.