An online petition supported by thousands and additional pressure from four local animal protection groups might just get McDonald’s South Africa’s attention to source eggs from cage-free hens in South Africa, despite the popular franchise’s refusal to commit when appeals were made earlier this year.
To date, more than 16,422 people have signed the petition.
During September 2015, McDonald’s internationally committed to phasing out battery cages from their supply chain in Canada and the United States within 10 years (following previous animal welfare commitments in Europe, North America and South America).
However, corresponding commitments have not been made by McDonald’s South Africa.
SA animal protection groups Beauty without Cruelty SA, United Front 4 Animals (UFA) and South African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) have all written to Greg Solomon (CEO of McDonald’s South Africa) and Sechaba Motsielo (Corporate Affairs Director of McDonald’s South Africa) during February 2016 to address the company’s use of caged eggs.
McDonald’s South Africa responded to two of these organisations (SAFCEI is yet to receive a response) with the exact same answer:
“McDonald’s South Africa takes note of the moves made by their USA and Canadian counterparts, and though we are exploring the viability of expanding McDonald’s cage-free policy to South Africa, we cannot at this stage, make a similar commitment as the one made by McDonald’s USA and McDonald’s Canada.”
Animal Voice, the official South African representative of Compassion in World Farming (which has been lobbying McDonald’s SA to make a commitment for a long time) has also added their voice to this campaign.
Following McDonald’s SA’s response, consumers are not impressed and have responded “we’re NOT lovin’ it, McDonald’s SA” after an online petition asked for public support to address the issue.
The online petition was started by a student, Yolanda Guse, who is a member of Beauty without Cruelty SA.
She explains: “I'm a super fan of McDonald's fast food and miss their greasy goodness to bits, but I refuse to support a brand that inflicts such cruelty upon our animals. Battery cage farms are a living hell for the innocent hens who lay eggs for McDonald's South Africa. All this suffering for a mere R10 meal.”
She adds: “Ever since I was a little girl, I had chickens as pets, and up until today I only eat the eggs they produce. My beloved hens are smart and witty, and enjoy each day roaming in the sun in our big backyard. The idea of them stuffed in a wired cage, enduring the pain and strain of factory farming, haunts my soul.”
McDonald's statement on this sad state of affairs:
Due to the petition and media attention it has received, McDonald’S SA released a statement, stating:
“McDonald’s South Africa is committed to providing all our customers with the highest quality food and we source our ingredients from reputable local and international suppliers.
We take note of the moves made by our USA and Canadian counterparts to fully transition to cage-free eggs for all restaurants over the next 10 years. We are currently exploring the viability of expanding McDonald’s cage-free policy to South Africa and we will complete our investigation within a year.
We source our farm fresh eggs directly from our own farms and suppliers, who meet McDonald’s stringent quality and food safety standards. Our customers can enjoy our egg offerings at all of our restaurants in South Africa confident that they meet the highest standards of safety.”
In response to this, Guse says:
“McDonald’s latest statement is nothing more than an attempt to delay action against the cruelty in their South African supply chain.
Extensive scientific evidence shows that hens in battery cages are frustrated, distressed, and suffering, which is why the company has already adopted cage-free policies in EU, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. McDonald’s needs to stop delaying and announce a 100% cage-free policy in South Africa.
“I’m truly disappointed by McDonald’s SA’s statement. Across the globe, including in South Africa, restaurants and supermarkets are moving away from eggs produced by hens confined in cages, proving that cage-free is both viable for businesses and better for the animals. No further investigation is required. McDonald’s SA needs to make a cage-free commitment today!”
A miserable, cruel life for the hens
Nikki Elliott, Founder and Director of United Front 4 Animals (UFA), explains the cruelty that these caged hens experience:
“A battery cage is a wire box, the size of an A4 paper, where hens spend their lives laying egg after egg for human consumption.
These hens have no space to do any ordinary chicken activities, such as spreading their wings, nesting, walking or perching. They will almost never see the sunlight or take a breath of fresh air. Extensive research shows that the hens are frustrated and suffer psychological stress. They also suffer from physical harms, including bone weakness and breakage, feather loss, and diseases.”
Adds Toni Brockhoven, National Chairperson of Beauty Without Cruelty SA: “Intensive confinement is a horrid reality that our farm animals face on a daily basis. 95% of all egg-laying hens in South Africa are kept in battery cages, producing 7 billion eggs which are consumed in SA each year!”
Frank Molteno, spokesperson of SAFCEI, states:
“Battery cages are cruel and cause extreme pain, distress and discomfort to chickens. We’re all creatures of God and God loves and values every one of us. As SAFCEI Earth Keepers, people of faith, we find it intolerable that our fellow living beings are subjected to the conditions that factory-farmed hens are forced to suffer.
Moved by the love of God, we call upon McDonald’s SA to stop supporting the torture of millions of egg-laying hens in South Africa and to commit to adopting a cage-free policy.
Dishing up the sort of pain that McDonald’s eggs contain is too hurtful.
Our prayer is that compassion and mercy will enter the hearts of those responsible at McDonald’s SA and that their egg-laying hens will be freed from cruel battery cages as soon as humanly possible.”
Watch: The Forgotten Battery Hens
Says Louise van der Merwe, the South African representative of Compassion in World Farming:
“Helping animals is not difficult and time-consuming, or even expensive. It's about being informed of the abuse and cruelty animals are subjected to through factory farming. We believe that if people really knew what was happening behind the scenes, they would spend their hard-earned money on products that inflict no unnecessary harm to animals.”
A cruel fate in the battery
Red Barn free range chicken farm in George reports that battery hens suffer from serious health problems, such as respiratory disease from constant exposure to ammonia fumes and fecal dust; osteoporosis, bone fractures, and prolapsed uteruses from being bred to lay eggs at an unnaturally high rate; and foot disorders, sores, and injuries from contact with the cage wire in outdated cage systems.
What you can do
Members of the public who would like to support the cause can sign the online petition and join the conversation on Facebook - McDonalds SA must go cage free and other social media platforms with #McDonaldsSACruelty and #CageFree. You are also urged to make responsible choices when buying chicken or chicken products from retailers and restaurants or fast-food outlets.