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A 17-year-old boy was charged with animal cruelty for killing a baby chicken, intending to use the dead chick in a class debate to illustrate his opposition to abortion.

Deputy District Attorney Andy Reynolds said the chick was either stomped or had its neck snapped March 27 outside a pet shop where the boy bought it.The attorney for the Lancaster high school student, who wasn't identified because of his age, said the boy didn't do anything that isn't done every day by poultry processors.

The lawyer, Clifford Nichols, said his client's act might also be protected by the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.

The boy opposes abortions, and Nichols said he planned to make the point in a debate that if people find a dead chick offensive, they should find abortion offensive, too.

"We do not believe that society will tolerate a situation of singling out a young man because of his position on abortion, when similar acts are condoned by hatcheries or chicken producers," he said.

Reynolds said the animal the boy allegedly killed is different from those raised at poultry farms.

"The chick is a pet, like a bunny or baby hamster," Reynolds said. "We see it more as a pet rather than a poultry item."