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I’m NOT Lovin’ It: McDonald’s Chicken Cruelty Problem

Chickens are one of the most common domesticated animals on the planet. At any one time there are around 20 billion chickens in the world. Surprisingly, most people’s only contact with chickens is on their plate or in their Happy Meals. But what are live chickens like? 

Chickens are very sensitive and intelligent animals. They can do simple math, exhibit signs of self-control and have complex negative and positive emotions. Chickens feel empathy. A study of mother hens reacting physically while watching their chicks in distress offer evidence to prove just that.   

Did you know that chickens can purr like a cat when being pet? They have numerous receptors and nerve endings and feel pain and pleasure. They love to peck and take dust baths, and they enjoy perching, especially when sleeping. When given the proper environment, they can form a bond with humans and may even like to cuddle. Some chickens are considered pets, and people form deep, loving attachments to them.  

These happy chickens, however, are the exception. Each year, 9 billion chickens are killed for food in the U.S. alone. Globally, that number is 50 billion. Almost all of these chickens live on factory farms, like the ones McDonald's uses in its supply chain.   

We’ve all heard about the horrors of factory farming. Due to consumer demand and the work of animal welfare organizations, like The Humane League, corporations are beginning to make small improvements. Burger King, Jack In The Box and Starbucks, just to name a few, have released welfare policies that will reduce chicken suffering. However, McDonald's refuses to address the cruelty in its supply chain.

That means - from birth until slaughter - the chickens in McDonald's supply chain are confined to cramped, barren warehouses with no sunlight. They are so tightly packed they lack room to move, spread their wings, and are unable to express natural behaviors. They essentially spend their short lives sitting in their own waste, overwhelmed with the toxic ammonia fumes created by confining thousands of chickens in enclosed sheds. Not surprisingly, many have ammonia burns on their bodies.

Can you imagine such a life? To top it off, the chicken strains used on McDonald's factory farms cause chickens to grow to grotesque sizes at rapid rates. This added weight (chickens are twice as heavy today compared to the 1950's) results in crippled legs, heart attacks and other health issues. Veterinary care and painkillers are non-existent. These chickens suffer until they die. 

So what can we do about the plight of chickens on factory farms? Not eating them is, of course, the best way to stop chicken suffering. Encouraging corporate reforms can be very effective in reducing suffering because corporations are subject to consumer approval. That is why voicing our disgust with McDonald's welfare practices is crucial. We can do so in countless ways; calling, emailing, posting on McDonald's social media accounts, leafletting and more. For more information and to get involved in the growing campaign to stop McDonald's animal cruelty problem visit I'm Not Lovin' It.

Rescued Chickens feeling dirt and sunlight for the first time. Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur/ We Animals

Photo Credit: The Humane League

Broiler Farm, Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals

Jennie lives in Boise, Idaho with her family and their 2 dogs. She’s a passionate vegan and actively advocates for healthy living and humane treatment towards animals. She is currently interning with The Humane League and volunteering with the Remembering Ruby Rabbit Rescue.

jennie@pranarun.org