In 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?
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.
One controversial McDonalds effect is that they increase the
consumption of animal products by asking low prices. This
makes McDonalds more responsible than other restaurants.
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
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.
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.