Dual purpose chickens as alternative to the culling of day-old chicks - the ethical perspective
This paper considers the ethical evaluation of dual-purpose chickens as an important prerequisite for societal acceptance. According to several studies, chicken farming is seen as one of the most controversial forms of livestock farming due to e.g. the common practice of culling day-old chicks. In 2016, an administrative court in Germany decided that the killing of the male chicks does not violate animal welfare legislation and is permitted for economic reasons. Within the society, this ruling was broadly discussed and largely rejected for ethical reasons. One alternative to the culling of day-old chicks are dual-purpose chicken breeds. These breeds can do both: the hens lay eggs and the cockerels put on meat. But the hens lay fewer and smaller eggs and the cockerels need more time and feed to grow. The ethical evaluation of the topic for this paper has been conducted in six focus groups. In addition, important stakeholders have been identified through a comprehensive literature study. The ethical matrix according to Mepham is a tool of applied ethics for the interpretation of the interests of stakeholders with regard to ethical principles. The matrix is based on the three ethical principles of well-being, autonomy and justice. The aim is to present a well-balanced consideration from different angles and thus to reduce the complexity of the topic. Usually, an innovation is compared with the status quo. In this case: the keeping of dual-purpose chickens with the current practice (culling of day-old chicks). We applied the matrix to five interest groups: dual-purpose chickens, consumers, egg industry, farmers and environment. The results show that the topic dual-purpose chickens as alternative to the killing of day-old chicks is very complex and therefore requires a differentiated consideration of ethical aspects.