In January People for the Ethical Treatment of animals launched a global boycott of KFC aimed at convincing the company to change its policies regarding who it buys chickens from. So far the KFC down the street doesn’t exactly seem to be suffering, but your mileage may vary.
According to the New York Times, KFC purchases about 700 million chickens annually. PETA wants KFC to require its suppliers to improve the diets of breeder hens and gas chickens before they kill them (hmm . . . I suppose they got that idea from their “Holocaust on a Plate” campaign).
Bruce Friedrich told the NYT,
If people knew what happened to those chickens, raising them in their own filth and then dumping them on an assembly line to have their throats cut when they’re still alive, they wouldn’t got to Kentucky Fried Chicken.
As the NYT notes, the campaign worked against Burger King and McDonald’s, so PETA seems to be trying KFC on for size. KFC may give in at some point as well, but it should be noted that McDonald’s and Burger King have a much higher media profile than does KFC. Both the Burger King and McDonald’s campaigns were covered regularly by national media, whereas the KFC campaign seems to have received far less coverage.
The NYT interviewed an independent expert on chickens, University of Guelph in Canada poultry sciences adviser Ian Duncan, who had a very odd response (emphasis added),
I’ve been doing research into chicken welfare since 1995 and change has been slow, very slow. PETA is very extreme and they exaggerate, but maybe that’s what it takes. I used to be very much against them, but I can see they are getting things done.
I wonder if Duncan would buy the same explanation from a student who “exaggerated” on a class project or paper. “Well, it did get the job done, Dr. Duncan, and that’s what’s important, right?”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council told the NYT,
PETA’s objective is not to improve animal welfare but to eliminate the use of food from animal sources. A proper concern for animal welfare is already well established in he broiler chicken industry.
PETA has been holding occasional protests against KFC ever since, including everyone’s favorite advocate of murder for the cause, Chrissie Hynde, at a March protest in Washington, DC. Hynde and other activists stood outside a KFC chanting such witticisms as,
KFC what do you say? How many chickens did you kill today?
Gee, that’s almost as clever as Hynde’s line about how it may take the murder of a researcher to get people’s attention. Ah, those nutty celebrities. (For those counting, the answer to that question would be 1.9 million per day assuming the NYT’s figure is correct).
Group says it will begin a boycott against KFC. Elizabeth Becker, The New York Times, January 6, 2003.
‘How Many Chickens Did you Kill Today?’. KOMO-TV, March 9, 2003.