No One Wants To Do This Job That Kills 6,000 Chicks Per Day
"Chick-sexer" might sound like a funny job title, but it involves a practice so cruel that the U.K.'s factory farms are having trouble finding any takers - despite the relatively high salary of about $60,000.
Within the world of poultry farming, both in the U.S. and abroad, large-scale laying operations have a constant influx of newborn chicks taking the place of hens who are "spent" and being sent to slaughter. The job of a chick-sexer is to determine which of these newborns are male and which are female. Playing with fuzzy chicks all day - simple, right?
The problem is that there is no need for male chicks in egg production, so the males - often just minutes old - are immediately killed. Some are trapped in a gas chamber, which can take up to two minutes to kill the chicks while they're shaking and gasping for air. Others are killed in a macerator, a blender-like machine that grinds them up alive.
In the U.K., the job of chick-sexer requires sorting up to 1,000 chicks per hour during a 12-hour shift, according to The Independent. Assuming the ratio of male-female chicks is 50–50, that's 6,000 tiny chicks sentenced to death per day. That means that just one chick-sexer is responsible for the death of around 1.5 million lives per year.
Unfortunately, the death of male chicks is a fact of egg production, even if you buy "free- range" or organic eggs. Life is not much better for the female chicks, who are temporarily spared but will spend the next 18 months or so crammed into less than a square foot of space in filthy, inhumane conditions. They'll never see the sun or indulge in natural hen behaviors like pecking or roosting. As soon as their productivity decreases, they're sent off to slaughter, often featherless, injured and filthy.
Chick-sexing generally pays significantly less in the U.S., where there appears to be no shortage of employees willing to do the inhumane work. In the U.K., the government recently rebuffed the poultry industry's request to place chick-sexing on a list of understaffed occupations, The Independent reported. The move would have allowed employers to source foreign workers more easily.
That's a good first step. The next would be looking at why U.K. citizens are so turned off by the job - and raise animal welfare standards so these large-scale factory farming operations can't continue in the U.S. or abroad.