A vet from Leipzig has discovered a way of sexing chickens while still in the egg. This major breakthrough will spare male baby chickens from the chop after they hatch and has won the German scientist a €30 000 prize for animal protection.

Maria-Elisabeth Krautwald-Junghanns, a veterinarian from Leipzig, discovered a way of determining the sex of chicken embryos while they are still in the egg.

Since most poultry farms routinely kill male chicks, because they cannot lay eggs and because male fowl meat is not tasty this will avoid unnecessary animal suffering. Discarding unhatched males still in the egg will have fewer ill effects.

Embryos are unable to feel any pain at this stage of development, studies show.

It's a touchy subject in Germany, where animal rights are a matter of hot debate and where the practice of chicken culling after hatching causes a lot of outrage.

Hence the decision of Munich's Ludwig Maximilian University to award the biannual €30 000 Felix Wankel animal protection prize to the Leipzig professor.