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01/04/02 . By: Richard Gibson, Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES . Yahoo News . Des Moines, Iowa
McDonald's Holders To Vote On Global Animal-Rights Standards
McDonald's Corp. shareholders will vote on whether to implement global animal-welfare standards after the fast-food chain couldn't keep the issue off its upcoming proxy ballot.
A resolution calling on the hamburger giant to extend animal-treatment guidelines in place in the U.S. and United Kingdom to all 121 countries where it does business was proposed by Trillium Asset Management, an institutional holder that specializes in socially responsible investments, and by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or Peta.
In the past Peta has taken credit for McDonald's adoption of animal-welfare standards for cattle, pigs and chickens in the U.S. , although the company has said the activist group wasn't responsible for its industry-leading actions on the matter.
A letter to the company's general counsel from the Securities and Exchange Commission's office of chief counsel, a copy of which was obtained by Dow Jones Newswires, indicated that McDonald's had sought to thwart the Trillium-Peta resolution on the grounds that it was excessively long.
The SEC advised the company that while, as initially written, a statement supporting the resolution included false or misleading language, it was "unable to concur with your view that McDonald's may exclude the entire proposal."
The commission advised both sides that if the advocates deleted certain sections and made other modifications, the resolution would meet proxy-inclusion guidelines.
A spokesman for Boston -based Trillium, Simon Billenness, said Monday the SEC's recommended changes have been made.
As it now reads, the resolution calls on McDonald's board to report to shareholders by October on "adopting and enforcing consistent animal welfare standards internationally."
It says that in the U.S. and U.K., the company has been a pioneer in prohibiting abuses of farm animals its suppliers use, and that "McDonald's believes that the humane treatment of animals is an integral part of our world- class supplier system. Therefore, we buy all our beef, pork and poultry products from suppliers who maintain the highest standards and share McDonald's commitment to animal welfare."
The resolution notes that about half of the company's 29,000 restaurants are overseas.
A McDonald's spokeswoman declined to comment, saying that reasons for the Oak
Brook, Ill. , chain's opposition to the revised proposal would be included in the forthcoming
proxy, in a section setting out why it believes shareholders should defeat it.