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Dubbing

94. The removal of all, or part, of the male comb is known as dubbing. The operation is usually performed when the chicks are one day old using sharp scissors. Once chicks are 72 hours or over, the procedure must only be carried out by a veterinary surgeon: this is a requirement of law.

95. The origins of this practice date back many years. It was first carried out to avoid damage to the comb by other birds, house fittings or from frost bite in open, cold environments. The industry has moved on and most males are now kept in well designed facilities where frost bite is not possible. Indeed, we were told that very few rearing companies in the UK now require chicks to be dubbed. However, we understand that it is more common for some overseas customers to request dubbed chicks but largely, it would appear, for reasons of habit, and we do not accept that this is necessary.

96. There are two distinct advantages from retention of the comb. First, in hot climates the comb helps the male to control its body temperature more efficiently. Second, in separate-sex feeding systems the comb helps to exclude males from female feeders due to the larger size of the head.

97. We conclude that removal of the comb offers no welfare advantages to offset the disturbance caused by the procedure and believe the practice should be phased out.

Recommendation

98. The dubbing of broiler breeders should be discontinued. The primary breeding companies should be encouraged to educate their customers that this practice is not necessary.