Last year, laying hens in this country laid more than one billion eggs for the second year in a row according to the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) market report
. The number even increased by 6.3 percent compared to the previous year. In addition, import figures also increased compared to 2019: Switzerland imported 597 million eggs from abroad last year, which means that domestic production covered 64 percent of Switzerland's total egg demand. Last year's egg consumption was at 189 eggs per capita on average, with a significant increase in retail demand. According to the FOAG, this was mainly due to a pandemic-related adjustment in consumption patterns: People mostly ate at home and consumed more eggs for cooking and baking. At the same time, the long-standing trend towards increasing sales of organic eggs was somewhat slowed down by the greater demand for eggs in combination with higher egg imports.
The widespread opinion that the welfare of hens in this country is assured because of Switzerland's comparatively strict animal welfare legislation has little to do with reality. In industrial egg production, including most free-range and even organic farms, laying hens are in fact spent and sick after 12 to 16 months due to their laying activity, because they are bred for maximum efficiency. In addition, they enter molting around this time and therefore lay less eggs. From an economic point of view, they lose much of their profitability during this time, so the birds are discarded and replaced with young animals.
In Switzerland alone, more than three million male chicks, are still killed on their first day of life as they are considered “industrial waste” since they do not lay eggs and are thus worthless for the producers, and this number continues to grow. Since these animals are unilaterally bred for maximum laying performance, they produce little meat and are therefore not interesting for fattening either. Killing by maceration is banned in Switzerland since January 1, 2020, because it cannot be ruled out that maimed animals survive and subsequently die a painful death. However, the gassing of animals remains permitted, even though it is also highly controversial with regards to its conformity with animal welfare. Gassing is the most common method of killing chicks in this country.
A motion for a ban on the routine killing of male chicks is still pending in the National Council. The Federal Council is proposing its rejection with the questionable reasoning that the rearing of these male chicks for fattening is not profitable and that the hatcheries would therefore be relocated abroad in case of a ban. In this context, the Federal Council refers to the alternative methods for sex determination and destruction of the “male” eggs before hatching and considers it sensible to maintain the current system of killing the live animals until the new methods of sex determination in the egg are widely applicable.