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18/10/99 . Kavon Franklin . The Crimson White - Uni. of Alabama . USA
Worldwide Protest Pinpoints McDonald's Treatment of Animals
For a period of two years, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have waged war against the McDonald's Corporation. PETA officials argue that the company is indifferent on issues concerning their products meeting humane standards of slaughter, as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture. The failure of McDonald's to comply with their requests has led the organization to declare October "Slam McDonald's Month."
PETA, which boasts over 600, 000 members, is hosting more than 200 demonstrations against McDonald's around the world. The organization's University of Alabama chapter held one of these demonstrations on Oct. 16 at McDonald's 15th Street location.
Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which is registered with PETA, organized the demonstration, which took place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Tuscaloosa.
The first request asked McDonald's suppliers to allow for their chickens to have at least one and one-half square feet of living space.
PETA also suggested the company should discontinue sales of factory-farmed hens. The hens lived miserably because of the battery cage system they were in, PETA officials said.
The organization is also requesting improved standards for chicken transport and slaughter. PETA addressed McDonald's use of genetically bred chickens, which leads to physical deformation.
Officials suggested the company buy pigs only from farms which provide sows with space to move around.
The final request of the organization is the sell of a vegetarian burger at all McDonald's restaurants in the United States. PETA noted McDonald's was already serving vegetarian burgers in New York and many countries in Europe.
"I do find it rather appalling that none of the restaurants offer vegetarian meals," Kimberly Tubbs of SETA said.
If McDonald's started offering a vegetarian burger, PETA said it would even give the company a two-page spread in their member magazine.
Situations are much less amicable between the two parties now since PETA started an international campaign with gripping billboards. One ad features a bloody cow's head and a label which reads, "Do you want fries with that? McCruelty to go."
McDonald's is not the only fast-food chain serving a large proportion of meat, but Tubbs said there is a reason why they are being targeted.
"We chose McDonald's because they had been found culpably responsible in court in Britain," Tubbs said. "Because they're a leader in this industry."
PETA has a similar reason for targeting the McDonald's on 15th Street.
Shortly before the protest, Tubbs said she expected a lot of "apathy" and "ambivalence," which is the opposite of how the crowd responded.
One ad features a bloody cow's head and...reads, "Do you want fries with that? McCruelty to go."
From the moment the protest began, several people waved or gave a thumbs up while driving by, some sincerely and some sarcastically.
Despite the scene, which was going on in front of the restaurant, the management at McDonald's seemed unaffected.
"I thank God they're in America, and they can protest," McDonald's manager Jason Shmitt said.
Their protests did have effects on some of the patrons exiting McDonald's who accepted literature from SETA, which described the process the meat for the restaurant goes through.
"They kill them while they're still alive," University junior Christina Buckelew said. "They just slit their throats and bash their heads in."
Members from SETA feel many of the customers do not truly understand the extent of what the animals go through.
"People don't realize the suffering that goes into putting meat on their table," Tubbs said.
Despite the high emotions involved in the protest, things remained calm, but there were some exceptions.
Some people driving by screamed at them and specifically drove by McDonald's to make comments. One customer who was exiting the McDonald's parking lot shouted "Hippies, go home" at the protesters.
One man who was driving by threw a McDonald's cup full of ice at the protesters from the car's sunroof.
"It's just a fact of life that some people listen to you and some people don't," University junior Joshua Ridenour said.
Even though SETA organized the event, not all of the protesters were members of the organization.
"People who are here, some of them eat meat," junior Tami Joh said. "It's not mainly a protest against meat. It's about the suffering animals go through in dying."
There were a few people there for different reasons.
Sabrina Edginton, a University senior, was there because she disagreed with "economic imperialism," and University junior George Hall protested because McDonald's does not have a labor union for its workers, even though he is not an employee with the company.
"They exploit their workers for profit; they exploit their animals for profit," Hall said.
A few minutes before the protesters were going to leave, three people showed up for a counter-protest. The people, two boys and one girl, were holding signs which read "Did somebody say McDonald's?" and "Meat's not murder, it's food."
However, Tubbs said when she went up to them and informed them about the severity of mistreatment the animals receive, they apologized and left.
Tubbs who had expected mild interest, was surprised at the event's outcome.
"Actually, I feel like we had a better response than I expected," she said.
Members of SETA felt the response they received was so positive, they plan on protesting again.
"We're talking about doing it at least once a month, until McDonald's decides to change," Tubbs said.