France is to ban the controversial practice of shredding live male chicks by the end of 2021, agriculture minister Didier Guillaume announced in Paris on Tuesday.
Billions of male chicks are culled around the world by industrial farmers as they are considered redundant by both egg and poultry producers.
Egg producers use cockerels only for insemination while poultry producers favor hens for meat, as they grow faster.
As a result, male chicks are routinely culled by being thrown, live, into shredders – though some farmers suffocate them in bags or gas them to death.
Announcing the ban, Guillaume said “nothing will be like it was before” in poultry farming after the end of 2021.
“We want to move forward, there’s no going back. The government is committed to it,” he said at a press conference.
“The aim is to oblige firms to do this by the end of 2021. We need to find a method that works on a large scale.”
He also said France would ban the practice of castrating young, male pigs without anesthetic.
“The ministry is going to publish regulatory texts in the next few weeks to move towards the banning of painful practices in farming husbandry,” he added.
In reaction to the news, Maxime Chaumet, general secretary of the poultry trade body Comité National pour la Promotion de l’Oeuf, told CNN more research was needed to find an alternative method to shredding.
“We understand and take note of what the minister of agriculture said. However, we currently have no other method available. We have no solution to date.
“So at the end of 2021 we hope that we will have a solution,” he told CNN.
“Machines will be needed,” he added. “A two-year time period is quite short, but the minister is well aware of this. They need to accelerate the research process because at the moment it’s looking like a complicated ban.”
In 2015, Germany was the first country to announce a ban on the mass killing of chicks, but last year a German court ruled the controversial practice would remain legal until farmers could access technology to determine the sex of a chick while still an embryo, which would enable them to destroy unwanted eggs before hatching.
The German government told CNN it had invested €5 million ($5.5 million) in ovo sex determination technology – also called “Seleggt technology” – to enable farmers to do this.
It said the technology would be available this year, at which point the mass killing of chicks would become illegal.
British animal rights organization The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has previously said that while the idea of maceration and killing of chicks by gas can be “distressing,” both methods “can offer humane methods of euthanasia, as long as they are carried out correctly by trained, competent staff.”
CNN’s Amy Woodyatt contributed to this story.