|The McCruelty Unhappy Meal. Photo: PETA
The animal rights organization lifted its moratorium on the McCruelty Campaign this year and since June has distributed Chicken McCruelty Unhappy Meals to McDonald's customers outside about a dozen restaurants around the country.
"McDonald's markets its food to children by packaging it in brightly colored boxes with toys," Lindsay Rajt, a spokeswoman for PETA, tells Slashfood. "But most kids really love animals, and if they knew that McDonald's suppliers were breaking the wings and legs of gentle animals like chickens, I think that you'd have to drag kids into McDonald's kicking and screaming."
The campaign, though, has parents "hatin' it."
A PETA protest of a McDonald's in Albany, N.Y., upset parents on Thursday, WXXA-TV reports.
"I don't want my son to be around something like this," parent Stephanie Gipson told the station. "This is not fair for a child."
But Rajt says children have seen worse things than PETA's Unhappy Meal, which comes "stained with blood" and containing a bloody rubber chicken, a cutout of a knife-wielding Ronald McDonald, photos of mutilated animals and a Chicken McCruelty T-shirt.
"Kids deserve to be told the truth and we really do need to give them credit," she says. "The bottom line is that they've really seen much worse in movies and videogames, and we all know that kids empathize with animals."
McDonald's told Slashfood that it expects the humane treatment of animals from its suppliers.
Our goal has always been to lead the industry by bringing about improvements in animal welfare including rigorous, ongoing audits of our suppliers' facilities.
"McDonald's works with leading independent animal welfare experts and makes decisions based upon science to promote continuous improvement in animal welfare as part of our broader sustainable supply chain initiatives," Bob Langert, McDonald's vice president of corporate social responsibility, says in a statement to Slashfood.
"McDonald's continues to support our chicken suppliers' use of both controlled atmosphere stunning (CAS) and electrical stunning. There is no conclusive scientific consensus that one practice is better than the other, however, we recognize that in either method, good management practices are critical," he says. "It is also important to note that in the U.S., there are no large-scale chicken producers that currently use the CAS method, therefore demands to purchase chickens from this method to meet McDonald's supply needs are not viable."
PETA says it worked with McDonald's behind the scenes from 2000 to February 2009 before it re-instituted its McCruelty campaign. A PETA protest was expected Friday afternoon at a restaurant in South Burlington, Vt.