Pretenders singer, PETA grill McDonald's over chicken slaughter

Published August 24, 2009 5:54 pm

Protest » Rocker says SLC chosen to launch campaign because it was in the 'middle of America.'
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Chrissie Hynde played chicken with McDonald's at a local franchise of the burger giant Monday.

The lead singer of legendary rock band The Pretenders, along with a vice president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, launched a national campaign urging McDonald's to upgrade to less-cruel slaughter standards for chickens consumed at the fast-food chain.

The event, staged in front of the Salt Lake City franchise at 242 S. 700 East, drew about 20 local PETA protesters waving signs of pictures of scalded chickens, proclaiming "I'm Hatin' What I See" and "Boycott McDonald's Cruelty." One man in a chicken outfit stood at a table with a sign that read "Hey Kids, Free Unhappy Meals here." It featured chicken containers with a menacing, knife-wielding Ronald McDonald on the cover and fake blood spattering inside the container.

"They torture these chickens," Hynde, who performed with the Pretenders Sunday night at Red Butte Garden, said at a 15-minute press conference. "No one else is defending these animals."

"Enough is enough," said Dan Mathews, PETA senior vice president of campaigns.

The Salt Lake City event was the launch for PETA's international campaign against McDonald's, which will include billboards nationwide with Hynde's photograph and a statement that says, "Birds are scalded to death for McNuggets. I'm hatin' it," a play on the McDonald's advertising slogan of "I'm lovin' it."

Salt Lake City was chosen to launch the campaign because it was in the "middle of America," said Hynde, a 57-year-old vegetarian, who added that she had been involved with PETA for more than 20 years.

Hynde and Mathews told demonstrators and passers-by that McDonald's suppliers in this country use an outdated slaughter method. It allegedly causes birds to suffer broken wings and broken legs, have their throats cut while the birds are still conscious, and be scalded to death in defeathering tanks.

PETA is urging McDonald's to adopt what they term as a more humane slaughter method, "controlled-atmosphere killing," which uses a painless gassing process to kill the chickens. Hynde said European McDonald's franchises have adopted this practice.

A McDonald's corporate employee who refused to be identified was at the event handing out media statements from Bob Langert, the chain's vice president of corporate social responsibility. His statement labeled PETA's campaign as filled with "inaccuracies" and he added that "McDonald's continues to support our chicken suppliers' use of both controlled atmosphere stunning [CAS] and electrical stunning."

The spokesman added: "It is also important to note that in the U.S. there are no large-scale chicken producers that use the CAS method, therefore demands to purchase chickens from this method to meet McDonald's supply needs are not viable."

Hynde and the protesters, after standing on the sidewalk during the 45-minute lunchtime protest, attempted to stand by the entrance, passing out Unhappy Meals and fliers until a McDonald's manager shooed them away. Undeterred, Hynde and the protesters made their way to the two drive-through lanes to make their case.

Hynde stopped two men who were leaving McDonald's and told them about the chain's alleged animal cruelty. After one of the men, 21-year-old Chase Palfreyman, received a PETA T-shirt from Hynde, he told her the rock musician he would wear it "with pride."

After Hynde and the television cameras left, Palfreyman continued to eat his third-pound Angus burger with Ryan Stebbins, 26. Both said the protest wouldn't stop them from dining at McDonald's.

"I like beef," Palfreyman said. "I like chicken." He said his family owned a cattle farm, and "most of what I've seen about slaughter is humane."

Stebbins, an environmental biology student at the Idaho campus of Brigham Young University, said Hynde's campaign was flimsy. "There's a lot of people, and a lot of signs," he said, gesturing to the protesters. "I see these pictures, but where do they come from? There's no evidence or footage. Show me some footage."

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