“Chick shredding is ethically unacceptable”

Is the shredding of male chicks ethically justifiable?? Are we allowed to breed and consume animals? Agriculture Minister Julia Klockner invokes our responsibility for creation and calls for respect for our fellow creatures at Easter.

Before her start as Federal Minister of Agriculture, Julia Klockner was praised in advance. The CDU politician comes from a family of winegrowers in the Nahe region of Germany. The department and Klockner seemed to be a good match for each other. In the meantime, the minister has had to face repeated criticism from a wide variety of sides.

In an interview with the Catholic News Agency (KNA), the 46-year-old says why she nevertheless enjoys her work. And how she wants to reconcile society and agriculture.

CBA: Ms. Klockner, with regard to the relationship between people and the environment, the churches also speak of the "integrity of creation". From a Christian perspective, nature is never just a resource. Does it still play a role in day-to-day political business?

Julia Klockner: According to the Christian understanding, nature is entrusted to people so that they can use and preserve it. This responsibility, especially with regard to future generations, also plays a decisive role for me in my function as a federal minister. Because when it comes to the preservation of creation, it is above all also about our farmers, who sustainably, laboriously and with a lot of heart and soul produce our means of life, maintain and preserve our cultivated landscape.

But it's also about nutrition, about what we as consumers can contribute: living consciously, buying regionally and seasonally, not acting wastefully. And have respect for the animals. They are our fellow creatures, not disposable commodities.

CBA: Yet we breed and consume animals in large quantities…
Klockner: Animal husbandry is part of our society and our culture. That's precisely why it's important to adhere to ethical standards – from husbandry to transport to slaughtering.

CBA: What about the shredding of male chicks?? The University of Leipzig has developed a method to prevent this from happening. When will it be implemented?

Klockner: Chick shredding is ethically unacceptable, must end as soon as possible. My ministry has therefore funded said research by the University of Leipzig with five million euros.

A breakthrough has been made: the method for determining the sex of eggs is on its way to series production. Male chicks are then not hatched at all. In the coming year, the method will be generally available. Then the animal protection law takes effect, which prohibits shredding. This makes us pioneers in Europe and worldwide.

CBA: From the point of view of the "C", we have to learn a different way of dealing with nature and creation?
Klockner: Each generation must consolidate contact for itself, which also depends on the circumstances: In times of scarcity, it takes a different form than in times of abundance. We live in a time when there has been a drought summer with many empty fields and yet supermarket shelves are full. At the moment, the main thing we need to do is curb the problem of food waste – we throw away eleven million tons a year. But the handling is always a consideration.
CBA: According to which standards?
Klockner: For us, it's the Christian understanding of man and creation. But new answers to new questions must always be found here as well. We can see this in the way we deal with human beings and the ethical challenges they face.
CBA: Aid organizations such as Misereor and Bread for the World are calling for a change in agriculture: Fewer subsidies for large industrial farms and more funds for smaller, environmentally friendly agriculture. How do you see it?
Klockner: I advocate for agriculture that covers a wide area, is family-run, economically viable and socially accepted. This applies regardless of the size of the company. The decisive question is: How does the farmer manage his farm, how does he treat animals or the environment?? There are small businesses that don't work properly and large ones that are run in an exemplary manner – and vice versa.
CBA: The debate is also taking place outside Germany's borders.
Klockner: At the European level, we are currently discussing how agriculture can deliver more environmental services and how this is practical, feasible and rewarding for our farming families.

Digitalization is also helping them to work more effectively and conserve resources at the same time. So the direction is right, which is why the question arises as to where the demanded agricultural turnaround should go – back to the days of dark barns? Certainly not!

CBA: In the fight against food waste or over-sugaring, rely on voluntarism. Is that enough, given market forces? Doesn't the state have a duty of care with regard to the consequences of early obesity or diabetes??
Klockner: A law is not an end in itself. The essential criterion is whether measures are successful, whether the goal is achieved. Let's take a look at our reduction strategy: Among other things, a binding agreement has been reached with industry to reduce the sugar content in breakfast cereals by 20 percent and in soft drinks by 15 percent.

But we must not do the math without the consumer. Taste must evolve along with it. You can't just leave out ingredients. It is also a question of consistency or durability. I will take legal action on baby teas, banning the addition of sugar here – babies don't need it.

CBA: As the Federal Minister of Agriculture, you are constantly caught between different interest groups and are sometimes subjected to harsh criticism. Does the work still give pleasure?
Klockner: I want to reconcile agriculture and society, I make it clear to both sides that they have to move toward each other. There is not only black or white, but unfortunately many debates are conducted in this way. Compromise seems to be out of fashion. But for me it is a core element of our democracy.

We will not make progress as a society if everyone insists on their 100 percent demands. For me, it's about striking a balance. This may be tedious, but it is still a source of joy – without which it is not possible either.

CBA: You have a degree in theology and are a member of the Central Committee of German Catholics. What significance does Easter have for you personally?
Klockner: Easter is one of the most important church festivals, and it's no coincidence that it's celebrated in the springtime. It is associated with departure, resurrection. For me, Easter also means coming to rest, pausing for a moment. It is the encouraging message of our faith that our lives are redeemed and in God's hands.
CBA: We will celebrate the holidays?
Klockner: Easter is a cause for celebration. The Easter Vigil a ritual – and so is the first glass of wine after Lent (laughs).

CBA: What does the winemaker's daughter and former wine queen recommend for the festival??

Klockner: Gray Burgundy is always good, especially at this time of year…
CBA: And that also fits in with the Easter lamb?
Klockner: It always depends on the preparation. Incidentally, I am a fan of baked Easter lamb, we still have an old cast-iron mold from our grandmother. Tradition is also a piece of home.

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