By ADEDAYO PERKOVICH, age 12

May is International Respect for Chickens Month. Unlike other livestock, chickens are not protected by the government from unnecessary suffering. PHOTO: briyen/Flickr
May is International Respect for Chickens Month. Unlike other livestock, chickens are not protected by the government from unnecessary suffering. PHOTO: briyen/Flickr

Do you like chickens? Do you like eating chicken? You may have seen labels such as “cage-free” or “free-range” on egg cartons, but what do those labels really mean? It might surprise you to know that chickens are often abused and mistreated because they don’t have proper government protection. International Respect for Chickens Month brings attention to these issues.

Celebrated in May, International Respect for Chickens Day began in 2005 and was created by the animal-rights organization United Poultry Concerns as a day “to celebrate chickens throughout the world.” It was then expanded to a whole month.

Chickens are not protected under the Humane Slaughter Act, which was passed to prevent the unnecessary suffering of certain livestock during slaughter. Many chickens are raised in dirty sheds with little time outdoors. As for their eggs, according to The Humane Society of the United States, the “cage-free,” “free-range,” “pasture-raised” and “certified organic” labels on egg cartons don’t mean that farms or factories need to provide their chickens with outdoor access or to prohibit practices such as beak-cutting.

The Department of Agriculture could include poultry on the list of livestock under the Humane Slaughter Act, explains advocate Cynthia Hodge, but so far it has not taken action to defend these birds. That’s one of the things that International Respect for Chickens Month hopes to change.