McD's is such a target simply because its big and good at what it does. PETA, anti-capitalists and anti-American-cultural-expansionists find McD's a much more convenient target than going after all the smaller organizations. Why target the thousands of slaughterhouses when McD's is so much easier? Why pick on all the little guys with their cafes & restaurants when McD's is everywhere? Why is American fast food & culture so popular throughout the world? Because people like it. No amount of advertizing and promotion will save a truly lousy product (remember the Edsel? and hundreds of things since then.) McD's is a success because they're very, very good at what they do.
I've worked in many restaurants and know that the complaints applied to McD's could apply to them all without exception- lousy pay, rotten supervision, sloppy practices in food handling and preparation, etc.; but it seems that McD's does rather better than most in these areas. Like any really large organization there will be poorly run elements, but I think McD's does better than most in controlling these. My first job was washing dishes in a Chinese restaurant and it was truly, unimaginably vile; if only there was someone from superior level that could have come along and sorted the manager out! But he was the owner, beholden to no one else, and a petty tyrant with it. They were eventually closed down for hygiene violations.
PETA and others with these "outrageous" should more accurately focus their attention on the slaughterhouses-- such problems occur entirely independently of the food vendors and ultimate customers. No one I know has ever had any idea of where, when or how their meat was sourced- with the single exception of my hunter friends who blow away and carve up their own animals. Not something that PETA and the animal rights people would advocate, I imagine.
The attention grabbing ads remind me most of the pro-lifers with their aborted babies & bloody bits put on public display. Its an interesting parallel- both groups seek to shock public opinion to advance their views, surely if one group is justified in its tactic then all "outrageous" ads of this type must be.
The plain fact is that many animal rights campaigners will not be satisfied until meat is completely banned. Given these objectives the demand for "ethical" treatment is just a subterfuge on the path to an even more restrictive regime. Should animals be well treated? Of course; but there will be as many definitions of that as there are people, and there will always be shortcomings/breakdowns in any programme. The debate is not one that will ever be resolved, and too many of the anti-meat folk are Food Fascists for whom the end justifies any means.
McSpotlight: Don't be naive; of course McD's know what goes in to produce their meat; after all, they go for the lowest price available; and that results in minimal "animal welfare". They know; they just don't care.
Secondly, do you know what PETA and other groups believe better than they do; or are you just ascribing motives to them?