San Diego International Law Journal


Jessica Park

Library of Congress Authority File


Document Type



The cages on the truck rattle vigorously with every bump and crevice on the road. The sun continues to blaze while a young, oversized chicken barely finds the strength to stand upright. It cannot support its own hormone-induced weight, and it is crammed against the corner after losing a battle with other chickens for more space. Over twenty-four hours have elapsed since its last meal or drink.

Chickens have adapted and grown alongside the development and industrialization of the United States, and their companionship even predates the official creation of the nation itself. The current state of animal welfare legislation in the United States is reflective of the lack of enforcement and protection of poultry. For example, one piece of legislation—the Twenty-Eight Hour Law—dates back to the late 1870s and has never been updated. Animal welfare and protection remains an unfinished byproduct of social, religious, and political evolution throughout the history of the United States.

Nations and regions that have strong animal welfare laws would view the lack of protection for animals, such as chicken, in the United States as a gross violation of the “dignity of the animal.” Governing bodies, such as the European Union, and nations, such as Switzerland and Austria, have strong political and social infrastructure that protects chickens, poultry, and other animals, and also communicate these ideals through their education system by creating animal welfare-regulating government bodies.

Recognizing animal sentience—or the ability for an animal to feel and perceive emotion and feeling—is integral to the best animal welfare legislation. It is time for the United States to change its sociopolitical outlook on the sentience of animals.