McDonald’s responds to McCruelty campaign; stops buying from supplier where hens were abused

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From Green Right Now Reports

McDonald’s has cut ties with one of its egg suppliers after an outside investigation showed numerous incidents of cruelty against laying hens and chicks.

The investigation by Mercy for Animals and ABC showed chickens jammed into small cages and mistreated by workers at Sparboe Farms, which has facilities in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado.

Undercover video of the facility and the mistreatment aired on ABC programs yesterday, after which a McDonald’s spokesman said “based upon recent information” it would no longer be accepting eggs from Cargill-owned Sparboe Farms.

(Reader warning: The video posted below shows acts of cruelty and is not suitable for viewing by children.)

“Regarding the undercover videos, the behavior on tape is disturbing and completely unacceptable. McDonald’s wants to assure our customers that we demand humane treatment of animals by our suppliers. We take this responsibility – along with our customers’ trust – very seriously. It’s important to note that the most alarming actions on video did not occur at Sparboe’s Vincent, Iowa facility that supplies McDonald’s. Nonetheless, our extremely high standards for our suppliers prohibit this conduct,” said Bob Langert, McDonald’s vice president, sustainability in a statement.

Langert went on to note that “this is not a food safety issue for our menu items,” but that McDonald’s does care about “how our food is sourced” and has a history of supporting improvements for animal welfare.

Mercy for Animals targeted McDonald’s because it sees the company as falling behind in trying to secure better conditions for laying hens and chicks, but it believes the fast food giant would lead on the issue, if customers would speak up.

The group wants McDonald’s to stop using any eggs from hens confined in battery cages in the U.S., as it has already in the European Union, where people have been more vocal about animal cruelty issues.

Battery cage chickens have no room to roam, or even spread their wings.

Creating better conditions for laying hens, would likely require a major overhaul of a system that places the birds in “battery cages” where they have no room to stretch or even open their wings. Typically, each battery cage contains several chickens with enough room for every chicken to one occupy a space about the size of a piece of notebook paper.

Battery cages “are so cruel that the entire European Union and the states of California and Michigan have banned their use. Additionally, leading food retailers, such as Whole Foods, Hellmann’s, Wolfgang Puck and Subway, and hundreds of colleges and universities refuse to use or sell eggs from hens subjected to the inherent abuses of battery cages,” Mercy reports on its web page detailing the “McCruelty” campaign.

Sparboe, whose workers were caught on tape mistreating chickens as well as simply tending to over-crowded and injured animals, announced it had already investigated the abuses and imposed management changes and terminated employees caught mistreating the birds.

“Acts depicted in the footage are totally unacceptable and completely at odds with our values as egg farmers,” Sparboe Farms president Beth Sparboe Schnell said in a statement. “In fact, they are in direct violation of our animal care code of conduct, which all of our employees read, sign and are expected to follow each day.”

Mercy for Animals has enlisted several animal experts to assess the situation faced by caged chickens and quotes several on its website denouncing the practice. Dr. Sara Shields, who has an animal behavior doctorate from University of California, Davis, says:

The effects of battery cages on the health and welfare of hens have been studied extensively over several decades by veterinarians and ethologists (scientists specializing in the study of animal behavior) … Hens in these cages cannot engage in the extensive natural behavior that is essential to their welfare, such as foraging, nesting, dustbathing, perching, scratching, short-distance flying, fully stretching their wings or even walking more than a few steps. While hens can be kept alive in battery cages, their quality of life is inherently poor, and the scientific evidence is very clear that battery cages cause distress and suffering …

Battery cage operations are inherently cruel. The barren, restrictive environment offers no hope for an acceptable quality of life, and such severely overcrowded confinement would be unthinkable for any other farmed species. World-wide, there is increasing recognition that battery cages are simply not appropriate housing.

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