February 07, 2023

A Call to End Chick and Duckling Killing in the EU

Alice Di Concetto (LLM ’16, France) is charting the path to end the grisly practice of chick and duck killing in the EU through her nonprofit, The European Institute for Animal Law & Policy. She explains how in this blog.

PC: Luis Tato / We Animals Media

Virtually all animal advocates agree that animal protection should begin at the earliest moments in the life of an animal. And a large majority of European citizens, likewise, have expressed the view that killing animals needlessly at any age should not be permitted under the law. Yet, in the EU alone, upwards of hundreds of millions of baby chicks and ducklings are killed annually, on industry orders, with full legal sanction.

This practice isn’t unique to the EU. It is used around the world to systematically end the lives of male chicks and ducklings, typically only a few days old, because they are viewed as a “by-product” of the egg and foie gras industries. Because male chicks and ducks can neither produce eggs, nor are they raised for meat, they are “culled” (i.e., slaughtered) at birth. Around the world, as many as 7 billion day-old male chicks and ducks are mass slaughtered annually. Their deaths often cause immense suffering, including via maceration (shredding), electrocution, and asphyxiation.

In light of this indefensible situation in EU agriculture, The European Institute for Animal Law & Policy and L214, a nonprofit that I founded and serve as the Legal Adviser, together with a coalition of 18 other European animal advocacy groups, organized an event co-hosted by five Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The event, which took place in the European Parliament on January 10th, featured lawmakers, scientists, and legal experts who shared ideas and presented the next steps needed to prohibit the practice of chick and duckling killing.

In conducting research on the ways in which EU law regulated the killing of chicks, I discovered that it wasn’t until 2009 that EU law authorized the gassing and grinding of baby chicks. Before then, the law is unclear about whether EU countries were allowed to engage in such a practice. So it appears the authorization for killing chicks in EU law is a relatively recent phenomenon, one that should be stopped immediately.

To raise awareness, I co-authored also a white paper entitled, “Chick and Duckling Killing: Achieving an EU-Wide Prohibition,” with Olivier Morice (L214), Matthias Corion (KU Leuven), and Simão Santos (KU Leuven). This paper anchored the discussions of the day and presented ready-made scientific and legal alternatives for lawmakers to use in the upcoming revision of EU farm animal welfare legislation.

Chief among the alternatives presented at our event was “in ovo sexing,” which determines the sex of embryos, so that eggs from the unwanted sex can be destroyed at the incubation stage. Corion and Santos shared findings from their research at KU Leuven, where they have developed in ovo sexing approaches based on optical and non-optical techniques, and Morris gave an overview of how and why agricultural producers resort to chick killing, before sharing the results of on-farm investigations carried out by his organization, L214. In my presentation, I detailed the legal roadmap by which chick and duckling killing could be prohibited under the EU’s Slaughter Regulation. Indeed, other countries, such as France and Germany, have banned the practice. The EU should follow suit.

By all the metrics, the event was a success, fueling momentum for a ban against chick and duckling killing in the EU. With 40 in-person attendees, the event space was occupied to room capacity, plus an additional 70 people joined us online. Following the event, policymakers expressed their appreciation for the insights presented, and many reported feeling energized to keep up the pressure in this area of animal protection.

A ban against chick and duckling killing is within reach in the EU. The work continues in the EU and around the world to stop the senseless and inhumane slaughter of chicks and ducklings. The white paper, “Chick and Duckling Killing: Achieving an EU-Wide Prohibition” can be found here.

Alice Di Concetto earned her Animal Law LLM from Lewis & Clark Law School in 2016, for which she obtained a Fullbright grant. She also completed a two-year appointment as a fellow in the Animal Law & Policy Program at Harvard Law School, where her research focused on the U.S. Farm Bill’s impacts on animal welfare. She is the founder of The European Institute for Animal Law & Policy, a think tank specializing in EU animal law and policies, where she provides services to EU-based animal protection nonprofits and public administrations. She additionally is a lecturer in European animal law at the Sorbonne Law School and Sciences Po Law School.


The Center for Animal Law Studies (CALS) was founded in 2008 with a mission to educate the next generation of animal law advocates and advance animal protection through the law. With vision and bold risk-taking, CALS has since developed into a world-renowned animal law epicenter. CALS’ Alumni-in-Action from over 20 countries are making a difference for animals around the world. CALS is a nonprofit organization funded through donations and grants.