McDonald’s agrees to adopt humane code: PRECEDENT RAISES CARE STANDARDS FOR INDUSTRY

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1994:

OAK BROOK, Illinois––McDonald’s, the world’s biggest beef purchaser,
pledged February 16 to issue a statement of humane principles to all the meat and poultry
slaughterhouses that supply the 14,000 U.S. McDonald’s restaurants, with a request that it be
forwarded to all the farmers who supply them. An abbreviated edition of the statement is also
to appear in the 1993 McDonald’s annual report to shareholders.
McDonald’s general counsel and senior vice president Shelby Yastrow agreed to
ratify and distribute the statement in exchange for the withdrawal of a stronger and more spe-
cific statement advanced as a shareholder resolution by Henry Spira of Animal Rights
International and Nanette Coco of the Franklin Research and Development Corporation, rep-

resented by senior analyst Simon Billenness.
“It isn’t a panacea,” Billenness told
ANIMAL PEOPLE, “but does put
McDonald’s on record as accepting certain
minimum standards of animal care and han-
dling. McDonald’s is such a big buyer, with
so much clout, that this will send ripples
through the whole meat industry.”
McDonald’s annually buys more
than half a billion pounds of beef, 160 million
pounds of chicken, a billion eggs, and an
unknown but growing volume of pork.
“They’re Frank Perdue’s biggest customer,”
chortled Spira, who has tried unsuccessfully
for three years to get Perdue to adopt a similar
statement pertaining to the care of chickens
sold under the Perdue label.
Titled McDonald’s and the Humane
Treatment of Animals, the statement affirms
that, “McDonald’s believes the humane treat-
ment of animals, from the time of their birth
and throughout their lives, is a moral respon-
sibility. The Company fully respects the inde-
pendence of its suppliers and requires them to
adhere to pertinant laws, regulations, and
industry guidelines concerning the humane
treatment of animals such as those recom-
mended by the American Meat Institute.”
Those guidelines, drafted in 1991 by
Colorado State University livestock expert
Temple Grandin, are notably stronger than
the federal standards set by the Humane
Slaughter Act, including explicit directions
for every step in livestock handling from
transport off the farm to slaughter.
“Additionally,” the McDonald’s
statement continues, “where those guide-
lines do not show sufficient concern for the
humane treatment of animals, McDonald’s
suppliers should take all reasonable steps to
assure that animals raised, transported, and
slaughtered for McDonald’s products are
treated humanely. Additionally, we require
that each supplier submit to us an annual
written statement, signed by its Chief
Executive Officer, confirming that it is in
compliance with this statement (or explain-
ing where and why it is not in compliance,
and when compliance can be expected).”
The shareholders’ resolution,
withdrawn February 22, would have man-
dated that “animals should be housed, fed,
and transported in a practical manner least
restrictive of their physical and behavioral
needs,” that “animals should be afforded
individual veterinary care when needed,”
and that “methods used should be designed
to produce a quick and humane death.”
These are much the same as the stated goals
of the AMI guidelines. The key differences
between the McDonald’s statement and the
shareholders’ resolution are McDonald’s
inclusion of language about the indepen-

dence of suppliers, which clarifies the limi-
tations on McDonald’s responsibility for
subcontractors, and the omission of a pref-
ace stating that many of the animals killed
for McDonald’s “may be raised on so-called
‘factory farms,’ where confinement, over-
crowding, mutilation and other procedures
can cause pain and suffering.”
The resolution had little chance of
passage, but McDonald’s was not eager to
seem to oppose humane treatment. Fighting
to reverse a three-year fall in U.S. fast food
market share, McDonald’s has been hit by a
series of boycotts from animal protection,
environmental, and labor groups that have
forced the firm to cease buying beef that
might have been raised on former Latin
American rainforest, and to replace styro-
foam packaging with recyclable and/or
biodegradable products. At least two boy-
cotts of McDonald’s continue, led by The
Beyond Beef Coalition, a project of the
Washington D.C.-based Foundation on
Economic Trends, and London Greenpeace,
of England, which hopes to get McDonald’s
to drop a libel suit against two organizers
who accused it of buying rainforest beef and
violating labor codes in a flyer distributed
circa Earth Day 1990.
“We have been successful in get-
ting laboratory users of animals to accept
the Three ‘R’ principles of reduction,
refinement, and replacement,” Spira told
ANIMAL PEOPLE, “and we think a simi-
lar approach can succeed in the food indus-
try. The first step is to get companies with
enormous purchasing power to take the lead
in establishing basic standards.”
Reducing and replacing the many
animals killed for food will be harder, Spira
said, but can be done through market mech-
anisms. “McDonald’s is resistant to the idea
of offering vegetarian burgers,” Spira con-
ceded, “because they had that godawful
failure with a pineapple ‘burger’ back in the
1960s, but once someone like Burger King
proves a vegetarian burger will sell, they
don’t care what the burger they sell is made
of as long as they make money.”
Burger King, the second largest
U.S. fast food chain, recently expanded test
marketing of a vegetarian “spicy bean burg-
er” from three sites in upstate New York to
80 sites. If the Burger King product catches
on, chances are the rest of the fast-food
industry––including McDonald’s––will soon
offer something similar.
Billenness pointed out that the
McDonald’s statement gives humane
activists a lever to use against bad condi-
tions they may see at local livestock facili-
ties, short of an actual cruelty prosecution.
“It’s going to mean something now to meet
the McDonald’s standard,” Billenness pre-
dicted. “Competitors will have to accept
similar principles, to avoid conceding moral
position. This gives us a chance to raise the
acceptable standards, and gives them the
incentive to want to improve.”
Billenness’ employer, Franklin
Research and Development, is an informa-
tion service for conscientious investors.
Adoption of code vindicates Temple Grandin
The McDonald’s agreement to
advance Temple Grandin’s recommendations
came as a timely endorsement of her empha-
sis upon pushing reform from within.
Noted for innovations in both live-
stock handling and the treatment of autistism,
Grandin is herself autistic. She found her
life’s work at age 15, when she saw a
squeeze chute used to load cattle at her grand-
father’s Montana ranch and was captivated by
how the passive imposition of order seemed
to calm the animals. She saw herself in their
response. “The way I would pull away from
being touched,” she recently told New Yorker
writer Oliver Sachs, “is the way a wild cow
will pull away. Getting me used to being
touched is very similar to taming a wild cow.”
Perhaps because Grandin gives “the
impression of a sturdy, no-nonsense cattle-
woman,” as Sachs put it, she gained admis-
sion to stockyards and slaughterhouses while
earning her Ph.D.––and won respect with a
series of inventions that simultaneously cut
pain and stress to animals and increased prof-
its. Grandin openly put humane concerns
first. At the same time, she stressed that
kinder animal handling brings reduced waste,
fewer occupational injuries, and less equip-
ment failure, all of which cut profits.
Attacked behaviorism
Simultaneously, as a psychologist,
Grandin demolished the behaviorist theories
of the late B.F. Skinner, who held as result of
his animal studies that thought is just a matter
of conditioned reflexes. “No way could I
believe it was just stimulus-response,”
Grandin told Sachs.
She concluded that Skinner’s teach-
ings, in denying thought to animals, had
rationalized what Sachs summarized as
“exceptional cruelty, both in animal experi-
mentation and in the management of farms
and slaughterhouses…Her own aspiration was
to bring a vivid sense of animals’ feelings
back into husbandry.”
In 1981 Grandin surveyed 23 feder-
ally inspected slaughterhouses
in six
Canadian provinces, on behalf of the
Canadian Federation of Humane Societies
with the cooperation of Agriculture Canada.
She rapped the handling of sick and injured
animals, the erratic quality of pre-slaughter
stunning, chicken transport methods, and the
design of many animal holding pens.
Grandin found only 45% of the plants she
inspected to be “in compliance with Canadian
and USDA humane slaughter regulations.”
Another 32% could be quickly brought into
compliance. Ten percent allowed too much
time to lapse between stunning and killing.
Thirteen percent weren’t in compliance at all.
Grandin’s report, issued by the
CFHS in 1982, was sent to each of the
offending slaughterhouses. By September
1983, Agriculture Canada told the CFHS,
86% were up to standard and 11% were
close, with only 3% seriously in violation.
The government claim is disputed by
Canadians for the Ethical Treatment of Farm
In May 1993, Grandin returned to
Canada at invitation of the CFHS,
Agriculture Canada, and the Canadian Meat
Council, to research an update. “The tour
covered the 11 largest beef and pork slaugh-
ter plants in Canada,” Grandin explained.
“These 11 plants,” out of about 100 inspect-
ed at the federal level, “slaughter about 44%
of the cattle and hogs killed in Canada.”
From the outset, Grandin worried
that smaller plants weren’t included, as
“Some of the worst problems occur in small-
er plants.” However, time and budget con-
straints prevented her from visiting any of the
200-odd provincially inspected slaughter-
houses. Together, they do about 20% of all
the cattle and hog slaughtering in Canada.
They differ from the federally inspected
plants in that they are not allowed to sell
meat across provincial boundaries.
Grandin was further disturbed that
the Canadian poultry industry refused to par-
ticipate in the performance review, as she
believes poultry receives the worst treatment
of any animals killed for meat.
At the 11 slaughterhouses Grandin
did visit, she noted many improvements.
But she criticized inadequate stunning at sev-
eral of them, due to faulty equipment; slip-
pery ramps and floors in many plants that
caused animals to stumble and balk; and
called for an investigation of livestock auc-
tions and drovers in Quebec, where she
observed that “many cull dairy cows from
many different truckloads had old bruises on
the tailhead and top of the hindquarter,”
probably from beatings.
Canada better; not perfect
Overall, Grandin concluded,
“Compared to the U.S., Canada is much
more progressive. The fact that the
Canadians even had this audit done shows
their progressive attitude. A humane audit
has never been done in the U.S.; if I visited
11 of the largest plants in the U.S., the rat-
ings would have been much lower. Three of
the plants I visited in Canada had the best hog
and cattle handling I have ever seen.”
Then Grandin tried to shame the
U.S. meat industry into more energetically
addressing rough handling by incorporating
portions of her report into a guest column for
the trade journal Meat & Poultry. Headlined
“Canadians understand animal handling,” it
especially praised the Agriculture Canada
requirement that sick and injured animals
who cannot rise––”downers”––be
immediately upon arrival at a slaughterhouse,
while still on the truck.
“Of course the emphasis needs to be
on preventing downer animals in the first
place,” Grandin continued. “It’s my feeling
that about 10% of the producers are responsi-
ble for 90% of the dairy cow downers.
USDA figures show that calving problems
cause 26% of dairy cow losses…I estimate
that 75-80% of dairy downers are pre-
ventable.” Grandin concluded with a brief list
of things farmers can do to prevent injury to
dairy cattle.
Without ever making specific refer-
ence to U.S. practice, in the interest of diplo-
macy, Grandin indicted much of the U.S.
dairy industry, which produces most of the
downers arriving at U.S. slaughterhouses.
But Canadian farm animal welfare
activists didn’t see it that way, especially
after the Canadian Meat Council circulated
copies of the Meat & Poultry article as a pur-
ported rebuttal to critics, whose charges have
focused upon the provincially inspected
plants. “Humane Societies Linked To
Winter 1994 issue of the Canadians for the
Ethical Treatment of Food Animals newslet-
ter. The accusation was amplified by other
Canadian animal protection groups, none of
which had seen Grandin’s full report.
Grandin’s response to the bashing
was characteristic. Gathering information on
each plant she was accused of ignoring, she
told the Canadian Meat Council on February
15 that she was “disturbed” by the “very seri-
ous omission” from her tour of one federally
inspected kosher slaughterhouse in Toronto,
which had been target of a recent newspaper
expose. She also told the CMC that she
“would really like to do another tour,” and
this time, would like to pick the plants to be
visited for herself, from a complete list of all
federally inspected facilities.
“I’d like to get into the provincially
inspected plants too,” Grandin told ANI-
MAL PEOPLE. “But that would have to be
arranged at a different level.”
Print Friendly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *