The Humane League isn’t lovin’ McDonald’s treatment of chickens.
Citing “outrageous” animal cruelty, the international (with a local Chicago office) nonprofit launched a public campaign this week that targets the fast-food giant in its own backyard.
“Chicago is McDonald’s home city, so we want people here to know what they’re up to,” says David Coman-Hidy, the Humane League’s president.
The campaign began Tuesday with the purchase of dozens of colorful anti-McDonald’s ads—slogans include “There’s nothing happy about McDonald’s Happy Meals”—on benches, buildings, and billboards and in newspapers, among them the New York Times and the Reader. Meanwhile, a truck hauling a supersize six-by-12-foot-high Happy Meal with a diseased chicken’s legs sticking out of the packaging was spotted driving around the city.
On Wednesday morning, members of the the Humane League—including a man dressed as Ronald McDonald and a person in a disfigured chicken suit—protested outside the McDonald’s in the Loop at 23 S. Clark. The group is busy Thursday with a “virtual reality and 3-D tabling event” in Wicker Park, followed by a “community launch party” at Revolution Brewing (3340 N. Kedzie) later tonight.
The idea behind the campaign, says Coman-Hidy, is to grab people’s attention and pressure McDonald’s into “doing the right thing” by implementing higher animal welfare standards for its chicken supply chain.
In October, the Oak Brook-based corporation agreed to new welfare standards for raising and slaughtering the chickens served in its restaurants in the form of food such as McNuggets and McChicken sandwiches. According to Reuters, those guidelines dictate that by 2024 suppliers must improve the amount and brightness of light in chicken houses, provide birds with access to perches that promote natural behavior, and test the well-being of different chicken breeds. But animal activists and organizations like the Humane League say those mandates fall short of commitments made by 100 other restaurants and companies such as Burger King, Sonic, and Subway, and fails to address their biggest concern about chicken production: birds bred to quickly grow to abnormal sizes.
“The most important thing is the the genetics of these birds,” says Coman-Hidy. “They’ve been selectively bred for generations, and they grow unnaturally large at a rapid rate, approximately six times faster than normal chickens. They’re killed when they’re babies, and they suffer greatly until then. It’d be like a human toddler weighing 660 pounds.”
In an e-mailed statement, a McDonald’s spokesperson said: “We’re committed to sourcing our food and packaging sustainably, including the welfare of the animals in our global supply chain. We believe that our outcome-based approach provides the most comprehensive way forward to measurably improve chicken welfare. We recently announced a Global Chicken Sustainability Advisory Council, a multi-stakeholder group including leading academics and animal health and welfare experts, global suppliers, and NGOs. This group will provide deep expertise, diverse perspectives, and provide recommendations for evolving our chicken welfare and sustainability strategy.”
If the campaign is bothering McDonald’s, there’s no sign of it publicly. The company is asking the media to attend a public ribbon-cutting event at a new upscale location in Wrigleyville on Monday.
McDonald’s plans to move into a new $250 million headquarters in the West Loop this year.