THE BRITISH VETERINARY ASSOCIATION has announced a new policy position regarding “surplus male production animals”.

It includes recommendations for male layer chicks, dairy bull calves and goats.

The overarching position is that the emphasis should be on the quality of life more than length of lifespan – but that the longer-term aim is to move away from the production of unwanted animals altogether.

The document goes into more detail, suggesting a “reduce, replace and refine” approach.

For male chicks, this would mean seeking ways to reduce the number of birds hatched (about 30 million each year). In-ovo sexing is the most promising technology, according to the BVA, but commercialisation has proved challenging to date.

Replacing the need for killing male chicks is not considered viable by the paper, which says layer chicks grow too slowly to be raised for meat economically.

Under refine, the BVA suggests Low Atmosphere Pressure stunning could prove a more welfare-friendly way to cull day-old chicks, but it is not currently permitted under UK Welfare at Time of Killing Legislation.

British Veterinary Poultry Association junior vice president Richard Jackson said, “The BVPA is committed to ensuring that animal welfare is at the heart of all that we do.

“We continue to work with poultry keepers, commercial and research organisations and government to ensure high standards of flock health and welfare are maintained and developed, including on the issue of surplus male production animals.”