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PETA's human 'chicken' hits Ronald McDonald with a pie to protest slaughter method

September 21, 2009 |  5:12 pm

Ronald McDonald gets a pie in the face, courtesy of a PETA supporter in San Francisco

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and McDonald's have never been on the coziest of terms, considering the latter is responsible for the deaths of countless animals for hamburgers and McNuggets each year. But with PETA's recent moves, designed to draw attention to what it says is inherent cruelty related to McDonald's methods for slaughtering chickens, the relationship between the animal-rights group and the fast-food giant has become downright frosty.

Since PETA's latest fight is on behalf of the animals that become those McNuggets, it's somewhat appropriate that an enraged "chicken" (albeit one wearing an off-puttingly happy grin) was the one wielding the pie that caught Ronald McDonald in the face during an appearance at the city's South San Francisco Day in the Park event over the weekend.

The pie-in-the-face gag (it was vegan custard, containing no eggs or dairy products, in case you were wondering) is just the most recent tactic in animal activists' war against the method of chicken slaughter commonly referred to as electric immobilization or electric stunning. Earlier this year, PETA used other stunts to draw attention to the practice, including passing out "Unhappy Meals" -- which included a rubber chicken stained with fake blood, a paper cutout showing Ronald McDonald wielding a bloody knife and a T-shirt bearing the logo "McCruelty" -- to would-be McDonald's customers and enlisting rock icon Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders to be the spokesperson for its "I'm Hatin' It" campaign.

"McDonald's can stop a great deal of cruelty simply by requiring its suppliers to render chickens unconscious before they are roughly handled and slaughtered," Tracy Reiman, PETA's executive vice president, said of the group's campaign against the electric immobilization technique. "McDonald's is responsible for forcing millions of chickens to experience an agonizingly painful death."  The group asserts that the electrical current used to stun the chickens before slaughter simply renders them unable to move, and isn't enough to make them insensitive to pain. Additionally, PETA says, many birds stunned using this method suffer broken wings and legs as a result, and others are scalded to death in defeathering tanks. 

In its current campaign against McDonald's, PETA hopes to convince the company to use its clout to force its American suppliers to use an alternate method of slaughter called controlled-atmosphere stunning.  (This method is fairly common in Europe, but less so in the U.S.)  Animal advocates say controlled atmosphere stunning, in which oxygen is removed from the birds' atmosphere and they die of anoxia without ever being handled by a slaughterhouse worker, is a painless process that is less cruel than electric immobilization.

But in a recent interview with Slashfood, Bob Langert, McDonald's vice president of corporate social responsibility, insisted that his company works with "leading independent animal-welfare experts" to ensure that animals are slaughtered as humanely as possible.  Since no large-scale American poultry suppliers currently use the controlled-atmosphere stunning method, "demands to purchase chickens from this method to meet McDonald's supply needs are not viable," Langert told Slashfood.

Ronald McDonald gets a pie in the face, courtesy of a PETA supporter in San Francisco

RELATED:
PETA pushes for slaughter reforms, ruffles feathers by passing out 'Unhappy Meals'
PETA wants to rent Virginia prison building for use as 'Chicken Empathy Museum'

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photos: PETA

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