2001 McDonalds has ordered American chicken farmers to
give their laying hens more space and better food. Should
we applaud this, or could we have expected more?
The American laying hens now have a space of half an A4 sheet of paper (46 in²). McDonalds wants to see that space increased to three-quarters of an A4. With 70 in² this would correspond with the space that laying hens have in Holland now. Scientists and animal welfare groups think that even the space of 1 A4 is not enough.
In June 1999, the European Union decided that, from the year 2002, European battery hens should each have a space of at least 85 in². Battery cages must be banned in all member states starting from 2012. A European chicken will then have a space of at least 116 cm² (1 A4).
In short: the current American situation is an outrageous scandal which maybe in the near future will maybe only be a "regular" scandal.
many years and in many countries, people who work for
the environment and animal welfare have blamed McDonalds.
Is this the fate of market leaders, or can strong forces
in the market really be blamed for anything?
If an organization wants to build a strong market position and go worldwide, they often cut back on employee conditions. In China they even employ child labor for the production of cheap toys (Dutch Press Bureau 27 August) for McDonalds to give away with some meals. But the animals that end up being the products McDonalds so successfully sells to the public, cannot be expected to protest very much. And for McDonalds it is not very hard to force their international suppliers to not only produce better products, but to make them perfect right away. Of course, it is economically more tempting not to be a groundbreaker in this field.
controversial McDonalds effect is that they increase the
consumption of animal products by asking low prices. This
makes McDonalds more responsible than other restaurants.
The size of their organization makes it possible to buy cheaply and efficiently. But the threat exists, that other chain stores will copy this concept and will buy even more cheaply and less responsibly. So McDonalds is tempting others into the same or worse animal exploitation. The urge to expand weakens the resolve to think about animals and employees even further. McDonalds represents what many call a scrupulous American "big capitalist".
take it a step further and ask: "should improvements
in animal conditions be implemented step by step, or
can we do it right the first time?"
|McDonalds has few problems, but their image is one of them. They could solve this problem by restyling cattle farming with ecological management on a more limited and regional scale. McDonalds can expect to be cheered only after they start buying regionally, demand biological production from their suppliers and charges a fair price to the consumers.|
is under fire. In 2001 Eric Schlosser published his book
"Fast food nation" in which he outlined a disheartening
picture of affairs in the fast food sector from the inside.
"It's a disconcerting book about cows being fed on
dead pigs and chicken shit, about the displacement of
independent farmers by great agrarian conglomerates, about
employee-risks in slaughter houses, about a lack of hygiene
in the restaurants, about the preference for unschooled
staff, about silenced inspectors and about salmonella
So some kind of counter attack was to be expected.
McDonalds operates on the international market. They can only be competitive if they (under the guise of efficiency) cut back on the social conditions of personnel and the welfare of animals. They also have to offer a reliable and fair quality, otherwise their image will suffer.
Their working efficiency has now been taken so far, that others had no choice but to follow it in order to stay competitive.
has formed an Animal welfare council made
up of scientists and animal welfare experts,
to develop animal friendly? initiatives. Unfortunately,
the link to further information on the McDonalds
site is currently not active.
They say they will not purchase beef from cattle that is kept in rain forests, and that they demand that their suppliers use approved fodder. Chances are, that McDonalds reasons "if one person chops down a bit of rain forest, and another then keeps cows there, we cannot be blamed because we don't purchase meat from cattle that grazed in the rain forest (anymore)". Even the demand to use approved fodder is fairly logical in the light of the BSE-risk, and understandable to prevent any future claims from Creutzfeldt-Jakob patients.
McDonalds says that they are striving towards durable agriculture. Whenever such large companies use the word durability, they mean something other than you and I would expect. For them, durability means that they want to secure their market position for the future. They seek publicity, and with minimum investments they make a maximum effort to gain a green(er) image.
There is also a striking similarity between McDonalds, factory farming and a cancerous growth. Normally a cell (read: a company as part of society) is kept in check by its environment to stay devoted to the interests of the larger whole. When this supervision slackens because of sickness in the environment (read: the virus of profit increase for share holders and management) the cell turns into a selfish growing monster that wants only one thing: expansion at the expense of the general interest. The irony of this parallel is that the growth is fed by the rest of the organism. The blow-out factory feeds an all-engorging mass which will eventually even engorge itself. So a healthy business turns into an organism that is destined to perish.
McDonalds and factory farming can leave this dead-end road by acting on their social responsibility in opting really durable solutions for cattle farmers. For instance by helping factory farmers switch to ecological and animal-friendly management on a more limited and regional scale. In their social report, McDonalds claims to acknowledge this and expresses their intent to follow this path.
Is this the only way? Yes, this is the
only way. You can take the bucket to the well only until
the bottom falls out. We have reached the bottom in
trying to minimize our efforts in securing animal welfare.
More on objections to McDonalds on Mcspotlight.