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McDonald's McCruelty - Where Does Our Fast Food Really Come From?

Updated on February 8, 2014

McDonald’s fast food chain has become a giant in the fast food industry,serving up their burgers, fries and nuggets to people all around the world for fairly low prices. But does the company itself really stand for? Over the past several years, the fast-food giant has come under fire among many animal rights groups for its irresponsibility in choosing in meat suppliers.

Many of the company's meat suppliers have recently been found guilty in courts and in the public eye of committing acts of extreme animal cruelty. Now McDonalds is having a difficult time cleaning up the PR mess left in the wake of these new revelations.

I Am Not A Nugget!
I Am Not A Nugget! | Source

Standards For Slaughter

Many of the American and Canadian slaughterhouses who are the suppliers of chicken meat to North American McDonalds, are accused of using extreme cruelty towards the animals before the slaughter. According to PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, many slaughterhouse employees severely harm and torture the animals in several ways, such as dumping the birds out of their crates as if they were simply dried goods, and often hanging them by their feet in metal chains as a way of 'storing' them, which often results in broken bones and serious pain for the animals long before they are put to death.

Practically all of McDonald's U.S. chicken suppliers use a system to kill the birds called "electrical immobilization,", which involves the above-mentioned process of hanging the chickens upside down and using electricity to shock them - although this often does not fully kill the animals. More often than not, it simply tortures and 'immobilizes' them. Investigators into this atrocity have found that, after they are hung upside down, the birds then have their throats cut while they are still conscious and are often immersed in tanks of scalding-hot water while they are often still alive and able to feel pain.

There are less-cruel methods of animal slaughter, particularly for chickens, called “Controlled atmosphere killing.” This method entails slowly removing oxygen from the chambers while the poultry are still in their cages, and replacing it with a non-lethal gas. While this may sound cruel as well, the fact is that this gas actually slowly puts the birds to rest, and they die relatively peacefully in their sleep. While this method of slaughter has been around for many years, is relatively inexpensive and is currently used by hundreds of slaughterhouses across North America, McDonald’s corporation refuses to require that its suppliers use this method. Using this method also ensures a safer and healthier environment for slaughterhouse workers, who are often exposed to harsh toxins and dangerous equipment while using old-fashioned methods of slaughter.

A History of Cruelty

In 1999, PETA brought charges against McDonald’s under the McCruelty campaign, and brought light to the fact that McDonald’s was using inhumane methods of raising and slaughtering their animals. After this highly publicized campaign, McDonald’s changed many of its practices and suppliers to more animal-friendly ones. This marked the first time in history that a major corporation agreed to change its policy regarding farmed-animal welfare. However, PETA reissued in McCruelty campaign in 2011, due to the fact that since 2000, the company has done nothing to further eradicate animal cruelty from its suppliers.

McDonald’s also recently came under fire from the press after a shocking video was released showing the cruel practices used by McDonald’s main suppliers of eggs. The video shows the chicken handlers breaking the beaks of baby chicks, shoving chickens into their pockets, and torturing the animals for entertainment. The video also showed the inhumane conditions in which the egg-laying hens are forced to live (and die) while constantly producing eggs for human consumption. After this video went viral, McDonald’s PR people went to work ensuring that they would immediately drop this supplier, but did not confirm whether or not they would enforce more stringent regulations in the future.

For Some, It's A Very Un-Happy Meal
For Some, It's A Very Un-Happy Meal | Source

A Daunting Task: Fighting the Major Corporation

McDonald’s is one of the most famous and successful fast-food chains in the world, and has branches and businesses in countries across the globe. It is terrifying to think that such a large company would be so apathetic as to where its meat has come from. As a global corporate giant, McDonald’s should have a sense of responsibility to ensure that the animals that provide the main products sold are treated at least humanely, and act as an example for other companies to follow. However, as McDonald’s is currently the world’s largest user of beef and one of the top 5 users of chicken globally, it is a daunting task to try to change such a major corporation.


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    • Eldon Arsenaux profile image

      Eldon Arsenaux 

      3 years ago from Cooley, Texas

      As aforementioned elsewhere in the comments, corporations keep bottom-line production because of bottom-barrel consumerism. And I am responding to ladyguitarpickers comment that "it is not necessary to cause such pain." She is right. But there are other necessities that need be taken into account.

      To begin:

      Cheap production: cheap (cheep) product and ethical expectations.

      Absolute self-sustainment has virtually disappeared in the United States since the turn of the 20th century (though some will still try), so we rely on companies to produce our nourishment unnaturally. But we nourish companies. Humans are a company's consumerist lifeblood.

      But what if I distance myself from these so-called egregiously unethical actions?

      Even if you do not eat McDonalds (which is one small insignificant step in the right direction from the meat moon), you may still be involved in an industry that manufactures animals for systematic slaughter.

      Once we set aside an emotional appeal to ethics- which we necessarily cannot, since even 'scientifically' inclined ethics are emotionally charged- we will strive to explain the scope of our eating with ethical science.

      There is an animal rights advocate named Temple Grandin I think many would enjoy researching. She discusses the ethics of eating: something must die for us to live, i.e. an exchange of energy.

      Eating is an exchange of energy, from one property to another. May we not see discussions on life and death worded in such a structure?

      We need to respect properties outside the human body that are digested, and become a part of (and eventually apart from) us. A person, as a 'singular' indivisible property, a self, is still composed of divisible properties.

      Hence, 'the spirit of something', or some substance, is said to be a part of us, and apart from us. This is termed, by Kenneth Burke (a 20th century Rhetorician), as "the paradox of substance".

      Thereby, I think we can create a compassionate ethic towards creatures (fauna) and non-conscious species (such as flora), if we find a 'consubstantiality' with them.

      From Kenneth Burke's A Rhetoric of Motives: "The Shepherd... acts for the good of the sheep, to protect them from discomfiture and harm. But he may be 'identified' with a project that is raising the sheep for market" (Rhetoric of Motives 27), i.e. he raises his sheep for slaughter, without admitting any sacrifice of his ethical values. But with wider scope we can say his raising of the sheep is consubstantial with their slaughter.

      Ethics extend beyond our individual hand-to-mouth. Our actions extend beyond our individual circumference. Ethics is the science of morals. Can science say what is right and wrong? We will certainly try, whilst wryly saying we're merely concerned with presenting facts.

      So, even if we don't sacrifice our eating ethic, we can still be identified with production practices of slaughter. It is nigh impossible to escape this paradox. This situation is analogous to Sisyphus, rolling the proverbial boulder uphill, only to have it roll down again every day. We might attempt to mount the hill, and put an end to the unethical edifice of eating, only to find ourselves blindly digging into a bag of delicious pork rinds. "I fell off the diet today, but tomorrow I'll be back on that proverbial horse." And even if you don't ride, someone else will sprint in the saddle.

      So, what is to be done? "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference" -Reinhold Niebuhr

      Very vivid hub KMS! Hope to hear from ya.


    • KMSplumeau profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago

      Jean, I couldn't agree more. I haven't eaten there in years as the quality of food is barely fit for human consumption - but on top of that,the cruelty towards animals is inexcusable when there are so many more ethical approaches that a big company like McDonald's could take. Who wants to eat sludge anyway? =(

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 

      3 years ago from New Jersey

      After seeing the "chicken sludge" the chicken is made of before McDonald's forms it into Mc Nuggets or sandwiches, I have not eaten in a fast food place in years.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 

      4 years ago from West By God

      But why single out one food chain above all the others? I did research on many of the claims and found that the research methods were very limited. Who started all these complaints and why is the real question. When doing research I came across that all food chains get their meat fro 6 top supliers in the US. Each food chain does not have it's own farm or animals they get their supplies from.

      The brokem chiceken legs one person mentioned, well I have bought chicken's grown locally and they had broken legs ect.

      I think most of us that buy meat of any kind just need to go to the farms ourselves to learn the truth. As you say, even the PeTA will do things to save money.

    • KMSplumeau profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      Thank you for this information. I've heard that PETA does participate in some fairly questionable (at best) practices, but some of the information they provide which I referenced in this article did come from otherwise reliable resources. Although we may not always agree with the organization, it has come to light in the public eye that many large-scale food chains do not necessary use the most ethical supplies available in order to save time and money for the company. Thank you for sharing this additional information, feedback like this greatly adds to all of our knowledge about a subject.

    • KMSplumeau profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      Thank you for your feedback, and yes I couldn't agree more. It's horrific to see any living thing treated in this manner.

    • KMSplumeau profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      Thank you for your readership and feedback. Yes I agree there are probably several reasons why chicken purchased in store have broken legs and other issues, that not all are caused by abuse, necessarily. In this article my focus was to show that not all suppliers of chicken to major food chains such as McDonald's use the most ethical practices that are available today. I'm glad you enjoyed the article, and thank you again for your feedback.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Lady Guinevere, that is really interesting. I have not really watched any of these gory documentaries as I find them disgusting but even more awful are the unethical ways PETA make these documentaries. What to believe is now hard to choose. I was in the U.S. last January and what I heard is that McDonalds is getting its meat only from reliable sources.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 

      4 years ago from West By God

      UK Says Animal Rights Activists Misrepresented Claims

      By Dennis T. Avery

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 

      4 years ago from West By God

      "1. PeTA is well-known for their violent, gory films that seem to showcase the "horrors" of the meat, fur, and animal entertainment industries. What they DON'T want you to know is that a lot of these films are either staged or filmed in countries whose animal health and safety practices are nowhere near the minimum required in countries like Canada and the United States. There have been numerous times where even films made in North America have been spliced, mutilated and twisted to suit PeTA's agenda. One prominent case from a few years ago involved the skinning of a living fox. The trapper who did this came into the public eye stating that PeTA PAID him to do this, and it is nowhere near a normal practice in the fur industry. In fact, trying to skin a live animal would not only seriously damage the pelt, but also can often be dangerous for the person skinning the animal itself.

      2. PeTA's propaganda has spread to the medical field. Their offshoot organization, "Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine" (or PCRM) is considered a joke among physicians. Many members have had their practice license taken away due to UNETHICAL medical practices. They discourage the use of things such as insulin for diabetics (due to the fact that it comes from pigs), and denounce ALL use of animal testing, to the point of saying "If even ONE RAT could find a cure for AIDS, we'd be against it." They proclaim unfounded "facts" about milk, stating it contains pus and blood, while the dairy industry has worked hard to prove these claims false. They've also claimed that meat causes any range of illnesses, from the common cold to obesity to cancer, all without proper evidence to support their claims...."

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I saw a documentary on fast food chains and how they treat the animals not so long ago and it horrified me for this precise reason. There really is no necessity to treat animals in this way but the desire for sales and money will always come first for huge corporations such as this. Good article, thank you for sharing.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 

      4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Shame on these people! I live in an area where poultry farming is big. I see big trucks with them shoved in tiny cages stacked on them. It always makes me think of slaves piled on top of each other in chains on ships. Thanks for bring this to light.

    • Kiss andTales profile image

      Kiss andTales 

      4 years ago

      I believe this is true based on my own purchase of chickens in the store.

      I Notice the bone in the legs many times have been broken . Most of the time in the same place. grown to fast causes the weight of the chicken to break his legs.

      Which does harmonize with this story.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 

      4 years ago from West By God

      PETA is a political group of people who think that no one should own a dog cat or any other animal. I do not trust their words at all. The tsist things out of context.

    • Kiss andTales profile image

      Kiss andTales 

      4 years ago

      Sad but this is true the farmers who contribute to The stock not all will admit , but there is some one who was willing to expose and show those poor chickens, and to think

      McDonald's care about Kids, there is a conspiracy theory that says kids that are missing a percent could be sacrificed and mixed in., no one is saying this is a lie as well

      People have to discern for them self , but not with their heads buried in the sand.

    • KMSplumeau profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      I agree, there's no need for the way these animals are treated. Thank you for your feedback, I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 

      4 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hi, The bottom line money that's all they care about. It is not necessary to cause such pain. I am thinking about getting away from meat. Stella


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