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PETA protests Jay Leno's show over advertising partnership with McDonald's

October 8, 2009 |  6:59 pm

PETA members protest Jay Leno's partnership with McDonald's...dressed as chickens

Outraged over an advertising partnership between "The Jay Leno Show" and fast-food giant McDonald's, a group of PETA supporters took to the streets of Burbank earlier this week to protest outside the NBC studio where Leno's talk show is filmed. 

Dressed as chickens and armed with signs -- some reading "McDonald's: I'm Hatin' It," others lampooning NBC's trademark peacock as a dead chicken -- the protesters arrived in time to provide a pre-show of sorts to audience members lined up to enter Leno's studio. Their aim: To convince the comedian to call off the McDonald's promotion, for which Leno plans to hype the restaurant chain's Monopoly contest on-air during 29 consecutive shows.

PETA and McDonald's have long been at odds, but the controversial animal-rights group has recently ratcheted up the pressure over what it calls the inherently inhumane way the company's U.S. suppliers slaughter the unlucky chickens that become McNuggets.  Toward that end, members have passed out "Unhappy Meals" containing rubber chickens stained with fake blood to customers, and a recent appearance by Ronald McDonald at a San Francisco event left the spokesclown covered in vegan custard, courtesy of a PETA supporter in a chicken suit. Rock icon (and vegan restauranteur) Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders has even signed on to be a celebrity spokesperson for PETA's "I'm Hatin' It" campaign.

PETA members protest Jay Leno's partnership with McDonald's...dressed as chickens Why all the commotion? First off, it's not PETA if there's not commotion. But the issue at the heart of all the recent protesting is a method of slaughter referred to as electric immobilization or electric stunning.  According to PETA and other animal advocacy groups, the electrical current used in this method to stun chickens before they're killed isn't enough to make them insensitive to pain, just unable to move -- a death opponents of electric immobilization call agonizing for the animals. In addition, they argue, many stunned chickens suffer broken legs and wings as a result, and still more are scalded to death in defeathering tanks.

With all its corporate clout, PETA says, McDonald's could easily require its U.S. suppliers to switch to another chicken-slaughter method called controlled-atmosphere stunning, which is fairly common practice in Europe but not often used in the U.S.  During the process of controlled-atmosphere stunning, oxygen is removed from the chickens' atmosphere, and they die of anoxia before a slaughterhouse worker has to lay a hand on them.  According to PETA, the process is painless -- and while the group would clearly prefer everyone go vegan than eat chicken at all, they argue that a painless death is far more humane than the alternative.

Of course, McDonald's says it has no intention of bowing to PETA's demands, and its vice president of corporate social responsibility recently insisted to Slashfood that the company works with "leading independent animal-welfare experts" to make the slaughter process as humane as possible. PETA's arguments in favor of controlled-atmosphere stunning were, in essence, irrelevant, he told Slashfood, because no major U.S. poultry suppliers use the method.

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-- Lindsay Barnett

Photos: Mark Ralston / AFP/Getty Images

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