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May 26, 2009

The HSUS Urges McDonald's Shareholders to Vote for Better Animal Welfare Standards

Animal Protection Group Pushes for Move to Cage-Free Eggs

The Humane Society of the United States

At McDonald's annual meeting tomorrow in Oak Brook, Ill., Paul Shapiro, senior director of The Humane Society of the United States' factory farming campaign, will urge shareholders to approve its resolution asking the fast-food chain to start transitioning toward cage-free egg usage.

Unlike many of its competitors, in the United States, McDonald's only uses eggs from hens confined in battery cages — barren enclosures so tiny, the birds can barely move an inch their entire lives. McDonald's closest competitor, Burger King, started using cage-free eggs two years ago. Other fast-food chains, including Wendy's, Quiznos, Denny's, Hardee's and Carl's Jr., also use cage-free eggs in their U.S. operations.

In contrast to its U.S. policy, McDonald's only uses cage-free eggs in the United Kingdom and will only use cage-free whole eggs in the European Union by 2010. In the United States, McDonald's announced last week that it is participating in a multi-year hen welfare study — even though an abundance of scientific research already confirms that battery cage confinement is detrimental to the birds.

"The standard industry practice of confining laying hens in battery cages is an institutionalized cruelty that must be abolished," wrote Diane Halverson, a member of McDonald's own U.S. Animal Welfare Council.

On behalf of The HSUS, Shapiro added, "In the United States, McDonald's is lagging behind its competition and its own European policies by only using eggs from hens cruelly crammed inside tiny cages. It's time for the company to realize that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to this type of animal abuse and begin switching to cage-free eggs."

Facts:

  • In a landslide November vote, Californians approved the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act — a new law making it a criminal offense (with a phase-out period) to confine hens in battery cages, pigs in gestation crates and calves in veal crates. California is the top agricultural state, McDonald's birthplace and home to hundreds of McDonald's locations.
  • U.S. factory farms confine about 280 million hens in barren battery cages so small, they can't even spread their wings. According to McDonald's own U.S. egg supplier guidelines, each bird need only have a mere 72 square inches of cage space — less than a single sheet of paper.
  • Cage-free hens generally have two to three times more space per bird than caged hens. Cage-free hens may not be able to go outside and may have parts of their beaks cut off, but they can walk, spread their wings, and lay their eggs in nests — all behaviors permanently denied to hens crammed into battery cages.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — on the web at humanesociety.org. 

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