In fact, on multiple occasions, it has driven progress. But McDonald’s has reversed its position on animal welfare – and so we need to reverse our position on McDonald’s.
McDonald’s makes a tempting scapegoat. The world’s largest restaurant chain, McDonald’s sits as driver and frontrunner in an array of international social trends with complicated consequences; the development of fast food, globalization, and industrialized animal farming.
To many, McDonald’s symbolises the worst evils of modern capitalism.
Clearly, McDonald’s is a company which is involved in animal suffering on a massive scale. The chain serves more customers each day than there are people living in the whole of the United Kingdom, and a lot of those sales are of the animal products for which the chain is famous; hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and chicken nuggets.
So it would seem unlikely that McDonald’s could ever drive progress for animals with its corporate policies. And yet, in several cases, this is arguably what McDonald’s has done.
In 2016, McDonald’s pledged to go completely cage-free with its eggs. I don’t believe that there’s such a thing as humane meat or eggs. But the transition will likely represent some minor improvement for the hundreds of millions of animals whose lives will be affected by the changes. And if companies as big as McDonald’s make changes like this, it puts pressure on suppliers and other companies, and probably builds momentum for further change.
In 2017, McDonald’s introduced the McVegan in Sweden. New policies and developments which make animal-free food more readily available to hungry customers are plausibly some of the most important changes driving progress for animals.
Steps in the right direction
It’s because of these positive moves and because of my general conviction in the power and importance of institutional change that I have argued that those who care for the wellbeing of animals – the vast majority of people internationally – should support McDonald’s’ steps in the right direction.
So here’s the twist; I’ve reversed my position. I am boycotting McDonald’s and encouraging others to do so.
Why? Because McDonald’s has reversed its position. Rather than continue to take positive steps for animals, it has dug its heels in, putting profits first.
Crammed together in sheds, artificially bred to grow so big, so quickly, that they often struggle to walk, chickens raised for meat suffer intensely. This is demonstrated graphically by undercover investigation footage, in the UK and elsewhere.
McDonald’s is acting to prevent progress away from this, having refused to sign up to the seemingly minimal welfare requirements of the Better Chicken Commitment. In Europe, giant international companies like Unilever have already signed up; in the US, more than 80 companies have already made similar pledges.
Given all of this, McDonald’s’ recent adverts with idyllic images of chickens roaming in the outdoors and talk of ‘quality ingredients’ smack of hypocrisy and intentional miscommunication with the public.
It is crucial that McDonald’s feels the anger of the public at its heel-dragging when it comes to chicken welfare; not just for the millions of individuals suffering on its suppliers’ farms today, but as a step towards a better future for all animals.
So join me. Boycott McDonald’s and let it know about your outrage. If you can, tell your family and friends about this cruelty – not just your vegan friends, and especially those friends who regularly eat in McDonald’s. The pressure must not relent until McDonald’s have made a meaningful commitment towards progress.