The ‘brother layer problem’: Routine killing, biotechnology and the pursuit of ‘ethical sustainability’ in industrial poultry

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The global poultry industry culls approximately seven billion day-old male layer chicks annually. Superfluous to both egg and meat, male ‘brother’ layers constitute a momentous problem, simultaneously economical and ethical, to the poultry industry. In this article, we scrutinize present and proposed alternatives to routine killing involving multiple biotechnological innovations, including novel methods for fetus sexing, genome editing technologies and re-sexing. We utilize a political ecological perspective that views attempts to solve the ‘brother layer problem’ as discursive and techno-scientific ‘fixes’ to problems of the capitalist poultry industry's own making and to rising demands for ethics and environmental-friendly animal agriculture. This context opens new avenues for profit-making by and for an expanding matrix of actors we view as an evolving ‘economy of repair’ that is built in part by public resources. Further, these fixes constitute an ostensible ‘ethical sustainability’ meant to signal both animal welfare and environmental improvements, which seem to work towards stabilizing agro-industry, thereby foreclosing alternatives to agro-industrial intensification.
Original languageEnglish
Journal Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space
ISSN2514-8486
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Oct 2022

ID: 323546011