Why Mercy For Animals Is Taking On Fast-Food Giant McDonald’s

Chickens in McDonald’s supply chain are among the most abused animals on the planet. They are bred to grow so large so fast that many cannot walk without pain. Kept in near darkness for much of their lives, they are often crammed together by the tens of thousands in warehouses, spending day after day on waste-soaked litter. To stand up for animals in these terrible conditions, Mercy For Animals joined forces with other animal advocacy organizations to launch a powerful campaign against McDonald’s cruelty.

For years, Mercy For Animals has reached out to McDonald’s representatives, including former CEO Steve Easterbrook, asking that the company ban the worst abuses for chickens in its supply chain. However, it became clear that McDonald’s was refusing to make meaningful changes for animals. This is especially frustrating because hundreds of other brands⁠ and many direct competitors—including Burger King, Starbucks, Subway, Jack in the Box, and Sonic⁠—have committed to banning the cruelest practices inflicted on chickens.

In the beginning of 2018, animal advocacy groups Mercy For Animals, The Humane League, Animal Equality, Compassion in World Farming, World Animal Protection, and Compassion Over Killing formed a coalition to campaign against McDonald’s, launching a petition calling on McDonald’s to adopt a meaningful chicken welfare commitment. So far, the petition has amassed over 300,000 signatures.

In September 2018, the Humane Society of the United States penned an open letter to Steve Easterbrook, the former CEO of McDonald’s. Several major celebrities, including Alec Baldwin, Daryl Hannah, Joan Jett, and Joaquin Phoenix, signed the letter, which stated:
Your own competitors—like Burger King, Subway, Jack in the Box, and so many more—are taking meaningful steps to improve conditions for these animals. We urge you to follow their lead and implement the modest reforms being encouraged by The Humane Society of the United States and other animal protection organizations.
In July 2018, 235 activists demonstrated at a McDonald’s in Los Angeles after the annual Animal Rights National Conference. Drivers honked their horns in solidarity, and passersby took pictures of the impressive event.

That same month, the coalition produced a massive digital advertisement in New York’s Times Square exposing McDonald’s cruelty. The rotating ad showed birds suffering at factory farms and appeared daily, multiple times an hour from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. The ad ran for months, with more than a million people passing by it every day.

In August 2018, New York state comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli published an open letter to Steve Easterbrook and Enrique Hernandez, McDonald’s chairman of the board, warning them about the possible financial risks of McDonald’s animal welfare practices. DiNapoli is a trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which as of July 31, 2018, held substantial shares in McDonald’s Corporation. The letter reads:
Based upon the Fund’s experience as a long-term investor, we believe that the ability to mitigate risks and establish and maintain responsible animal welfare practices are hallmarks of a company with a sound, sustainable and profitable long-term strategy. I would appreciate a response detailing what the company is doing to build on its recent chicken welfare policy and align it with widely accepted best practices like RSPCA and GAP.
In October 2018, Mercy For Animals held a peaceful vigil in front of a McDonald’s on Los Angeles’ famed Sunset Boulevard. Animal advocates held signs displaying pictures of chickens who had suffered at McDonald’s supplier farms and gave flowers to those wishing to pay their respects. Mercy For Animals also handed out informational leaflets to inform the public of the cruelty in McDonald’s supply chain.

In May 2019, Mercy For Animals and other coalition members met up in Chicago for nearly a week’s worth of demonstrations and events outside McDonald’s headquarters. Twelve-foot-tall inflatable chickens were part of our protests and even made a trip to Wrigley Field to spread the word about the cruelty in McDonald’s supply chain.

At the same time, several activists flew to Dallas to take part in an additional demonstration during the company’s annual shareholders meeting. That year was the first the shareholders meeting had been held outside Chicago, which was very likely due to the planned demonstrations.

The day before the shareholders meeting, a cast of 25 celebrities urged McDonald’s to adopt a comprehensive chicken welfare policy in a TV ad that aired in Chicago.

Produced by Mercy For Animals, the video featured Daniella Monet, Emily Deschanel, James Cromwell, Kimberly Elise, Matt Lauria, Joanna Krupa, Daisy Fuentes, John Salley, Alison Pill, and many others. The ad, covered by viral news outlet NowThis, swiftly racked up millions of views on social media. Additionally, 800,000 people in the Chicago area saw the ad on CNN, MSNBC, ESPN, NBC, and other channels.

Mercy For Animals also produced a Spanish-language version of the TV ad.

In July 2019, Mercy For Animals put up multiple billboards in Georgia—the poultry capital of the world—asking people to speak out against any wrongdoings they may have witnessed at McDonald’s or Tyson Foods. Tyson Foods is the largest poultry producer in the United States and supplies McDonald’s with most of its chicken. In English and Spanish, the signs reached thousands of people affected by the chicken industry and introduced them to our new resource: ChickieLeaks.com.

This secure online platform aims to give a voice to people who’ve suffered in the chicken industry.

In addition to the billboards, Mercy For Animals purchased print ads in local Georgia media outlets and initiated direct-mail campaigns in chicken farming communities in several states, such as Arkansas, where Tyson Foods is headquartered.

During the same time, after another Animal Rights National Conference, over 140 dedicated advocates took part in a massive demonstration outside McDonald’s in Alexandria, Virginia.

Since then, the campaign has escalated, including an expansion to take on McDonald’s in the United Kingdom. You can help make a difference in the lives of chickens raised for McDonald’s by taking action at McDonaldsCruelty.com, contacting McDonald’s directly on Twitter or Facebook, or giving the company a call at 1-800-244-6227. Looking for more ways to get involved? Subscribe to our digital advocacy bot on Facebook for simple actions that can have a huge impact.
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