Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

"Chickens raised and slaughtered for meat, known as “broiler chickens” by the poultry industry, are bred to grow so large, so fast, that many cannot even walk without pain." (Photo: Mike Mozart/flickr/cc)

"Chickens raised and slaughtered for meat, known as “broiler chickens” by the poultry industry, are bred to grow so large, so fast, that many cannot even walk without pain." (Photo: Mike Mozart/flickr/cc)

McDonald's Once Made Progress on Animal Welfare, But Has Now Fallen to the Back of the Pack

While more than 100 food brands have committed to banning these cruel practices from their supply chains, Mickey D’s has stood firm in its commitment to extreme animal cruelty.

Kenny Torrella

In late March, as the million-plus New York Times print subscribers sat down to breakfast and cracked open their newspapers, they probably weren’t expecting a full-page advertisement calling out McDonald’s for its abuse of chickens. After all, a few years earlier the company had been praised for announcing it would source exclusively cage-free eggs — an announcement that propelled the entire egg industry to begin to move away from barbaric battery cages, which confine hens so intensively they can’t even spread their wings, to less cruel systems void of cages.

But in recent years the fast-food giant has fallen behind its competitors, such as Burger King and Subway, in addressing the worst factory farming practices, which are meted out on billions of chickens each year for our fast-food addiction to nuggets, tenders, and chicken sandwiches.

Chickens raised and slaughtered for meat, known as “broiler chickens” by the poultry industry, are bred to grow so large, so fast, that many cannot even walk without pain. According to University of Arkansas researchers, if humans grew at a rate similar to that of commercially bred chickens in the poultry industry, a six-pound newborn would weigh 660 pounds after just two months. They’re then crammed by the tens of thousands into ammonia-ridden dark, windowless warehouses and forced to live in their own waste, which causes painful eye sores and respiratory distress.

While more than 100 food brands have committed to banning these cruel practices from their supply chains, Mickey D’s has stood firm in its commitment to extreme animal cruelty. Six of the nation’s largest animal welfare groups are — mind the wordplay — not lovin’ it, and are now urging the super sized chain to catch up with its competitors and pledge to end this abuse.

These claims of cruelty in McDonald’s supply chain have been corroborated by a Mercy For Animals undercover exposé. In 2015, a whistleblower captured hidden-camera video footage of chickens who could barely even walk, suffering inside sheds where they were forced to live in their own excrement. On top of these standard cruelties in the poultry industry, workers were caught beating, stabbing, and impaling chickens on makeshift clubs with nails affixed to them, and then throwing the bloodied birds into buckets to slowly die. Factory farm owners stepped on the heads of live chickens and then pulled the birds’ wings or bodies to break their necks. The investigative findings stood in stark contrast to McDonald’s sanitized “food transparency” campaign it launched a year prior.

Will McDonald’s continue being a laggard on animal welfare or once again take the lead? Time will tell. But McDonald’s should recognize that releasing a stronger animal welfare policy isn’t just good for animals; it’s also what its customers want. A 2017 survey found that four out of five Americans agree these practices should be completely banned from our food system, even if it raises the price of chicken. A 2018 poll went a step further, finding that 47 percent of Americans would support a ban on all slaughterhouses.

While McDonald’s may not be replacing all of its chicken sandwiches with its new McVegan burger just yet, the company would be wise to ban the worst factory farm abuses from its supply chain, lest it fall behind both business trends and consumer expectations.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Kenny Torrella

Kenny Torrella is the director of communications at Mercy For Animals.

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Groups Say Congress Should Reject Biden's Harmful Sentencing Proposal on Fentanyl-Related Drugs

"The facts don't support the argument that a harsh law enforcement approach, such as permanent classwide scheduling of fentanyl-related substances, will curb drug distribution, sale, and use."

Andrea Germanos ·


AOC Laments How Accused Predator Kavanaugh Ready to Rule on 'Whether to Legalize Forced Birth in the US'

The congresswoman suggested Justice Brett Kavanaugh should recuse himself from Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, considering multiple sexual assault allegations against him that the FBI failed to investigate.

Julia Conley ·


Biden Rebuked for Plan to Implement 'Even Worse' Version of Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' Policy

"The Biden administration must stop hiding behind a flawed court order to justify" the abuse of asylum seekers, said one immigrant rights advocate.

Kenny Stancil ·


Progressive Coalition to Schumer: No More Cuts to Popular Build Back Better Bill

"Now is the moment to do everything in your power to ensure that we get the best, most inclusive, reconciliation bill possible across the finish line."

Jessica Corbett ·


New Report Urges Biden to Stop Arms Sales Fueling Saudi 'Devastation' of Yemen

"It's time for the Biden administration to cut off this support as a way to change Saudi conduct and relieve the suffering of the Yemeni people caused by Saudi actions."

Brett Wilkins ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo