Last updated 25 September 2020


It is standard, legal practice in Australia to debeak turkeys almost immediately after they are hatched. 

Debeaking is the process of removing one third of the upper beak or upper and lower beak of a bird. Debeaking is performed to reduce behaviours that minimise carcass quality of meat. These behaviours - feather pecking, peck injury and peck mortality - are issues associated with housing turkeys in close confines with unnaturally large flock sizes.

With little mental stimuli and the inability to establish a pecking order, turkeys are more likely to become aggressive and injure one another. In the wild, turkeys live among flocks of 5 to 50 birds. Conversely, in intensive farming sheds, turkeys are housed with 6,000-20,000 birds depending on their sex and size.

Turkeys who have been debeaked.

Debeaking can cause

  • Removal of sensory receptors 
  • Reduction in feed intake
  • Reduction in pecking efficiency 
  • Permanent loss of temperature and touch responses 

Behavioural evidence, such as hyperalgesia and guarding behaviour, indicates persistent pain and possible loss of magnetoreception. 

Poultry animals who have undergone beak trimming have been found to suffer from continual traumatic neuroma, a painful condition caused by trauma to the nerves.

Infrared debeaking -  Infrared beak trimming is the application of infrared laser to damage the beak tip. The end of the beak stays intact initially however erodes over time.

Turkey poults being debeaked with infrared. Source: Kinder World

Using the NovaTech infrared system, newborn turkeys’ (‘poults’ or ‘chicks’) heads are restrained in an automated carousel while the infrared light is applied to the beak.

If excessive infrared energy is applied to the beak it can damage the soft tissue and impair beak function. Dark pigmentation on turkeys’ beaks can lead to split beaks.

Hot blade trimming Hot blade trimming is carried out using a heated blade to remove the end of the beak, this can cause tissue damage near the cut edge.

A turkey being debeaked using the hot blade method.

Debeaking is recognised by the RSPCA to cause acute and chronic pain.

Toe Trimming:

Toe trimming is a procedure to remove the ends of turkey poults’ toes, intended to halt the growth of claws. Microwave energy is applied to their toes in order to kill the germinal bed tissue from where the claw grows.

Newborn turkeys are restrained by their feet upside down and pulled back to have the microwave energy applied to their toes, before being dropped out the bottom of the apparatus. 

A turkey poult who has been debeaked and toe trimmed.

Turkey who have been subjected to the toe trimming procedure have been observed to exhibit several responses associated with pain, including increased resting and sitting, and reduced eating (a strong indication of pain).

The RSPCA, an institution that directly profits from the exploitation of animals and provides their approval for many unethical procedures, will not provide their certification to farms raising toe-trimmed turkeys.