Home on the Range


Karla Salp

What Chickens Look Like when not in Cages Photo credit: loe.org

Felicity Gregware, Contributor

The next time you have a backyard barbecue, you might want to think about this: according to meatinstitute.org, in 2017 the meat and poultry industry processed over 32 million cattle and calves and 241.7 million turkeys. Numbers like these show that the meat industry is a really big business in America.  We LOVE meat!  It’s easy to forget all that meat used to be a real live animal. All chickens should be added to the pre-existing animal cruelty laws.

There are 9 billion chickens that are processed, or slaughtered, every year in the United States. Chickens need to be able to roam and make connections with other chickens because they are very sensitive animals.  Also, animallaw.info states that the Humane Slaughter Act, Animal Welfare Act, and the Twenty-Eight Hour Law all exclude chickens from their protections. Thus, there are no federal regulations regarding the breeding, rearing, sale, transportation, or slaughter of chickens. Animallaw.info also says, “although every state in the United States has an animal anti-cruelty law, thirty states specifically exclude farm animals (or fowl), and/or make exceptions for ‘common,’ ‘normal,’ or ‘customary’ animal husbandry practices and eighteen states also exclude animal slaughtered for food.” Not a lot of states have protection for chickens, but they should have the basic freedoms that every animal has or should have.   

People on the other side of the chicken wire believe that chickens should not have protected rights. According to humanesociety.org, the federal government is silent on the issue of animal rights. Additionally, most states do not have laws about how farm animals are treated.  The humane treatment of chickens is far from the top of the list of government priorities. But, they should be. This should be a higher priority because according to weforum.org, in 2019 there were 50 billion chickens slaughtered for food that year. That is a large amount, more than what was slaughtered for food in 2017. We should care, and we need to care, if we are going to continue to eat such large amounts. The number of chickens that were slaughtered has increased to 41 billion since 2017.  Just think about 10 to 15 years from now. That number needs to slow down, or at some point, we are going to be all out of chicken. That is a cost that I am not willing to pay, and I don’t think you are either. 

Chickens spend their entire lives in tiny, cramped conditions. According to animallaw.info, “Egg-laying chickens are often referred to as ‘cage hens’ or ‘battery hens’ because they live their life in a ‘battery cage.’  Typically, each battery cage is a 12-inch by 18-inch wire cage that may hold up to six birds.” In a six-bird cage, each bird would have approximately six inches of room. According to extension.msstate.edu, putting them in cages can cause bacterial infections like Mycoplasmosis, Pullorum Disease, and much more, which later causes death. We can do better than this. People that put the chicken in these cages are not realizing what it is really doing to the chickens. By not putting chickens onto the animal cruelty law, the government is allowing chickens to live their lives in tiny, confined cages that allow for little to no movement. Chickens that are forced to suffer will not be as healthy and live a good long life before they’re killed. 

Chickens should be protected under animal cruelty laws. People should care because we eat chickens. They should have a good and long and healthy life before they are processed.  This would ensure that the chickens get everything that they need and ensure that we do, too. There are other things that we can do as alternatives to this problem.  Free-range farming is growing as a farming practice. Chickens are allowed to act as they would in nature. They normally would be scratching and pecking on the ground, and eating all the bugs, which are good for the chickens and good for the eggs.  The way that chickens live is the problem. As chickens are inside the cages they are known as “normal,” chickens that don’t cast as much as the free range. The free range doesn’t get as big, but having them free range inserts that they live long and healthy lives, and this is what everyone wants to have. In conclusion, it is important to care for our food as we do for ourselves.