McDonald’s broken promise on animal welfare will loom large at shareholder meeting

By on March 9, 2022 with 17 Comments

For decades, the Humane Society of the United States has led the charge against the cruel confinement of animals on factory farms. It’s a big fight, one of the biggest, and it involves hundreds of millions of animals locked in cramped spaces all across this country, from egg-laying hens locked in cages to veal calves. Mother pigs are locked in crates so small, they are unable to turn around or take a step in any direction. It’s not uncommon to find these crates bloodied as pigs desperately chew on the metal bars that are inches from their faces, day in and day out.

There has been tremendous movement away from these practices already. Our public awareness campaigns have educated and engaged millions of consumers. Our legislative campaigns have produced groundbreaking laws to prohibit intensive confinement practices in our states. We’ve also worked with hundreds of food companies to support their establishment of policies to eliminate this systematic cruelty at immense scale from their supply chains. And that includes the world’s largest fast-food chain, McDonald’s.

Ten years ago, in February 2012, McDonald’s and the HSUS jointly announced the company’s commitment to end this cruelty and chart a better and more responsible course with a press release about ending gestation crates in its pork supply. In May that same year, the company issued a second press release stating that it would end these crates for pregnant sows by 2022—this year.

In both releases, the company’s language was crystal clear: No gestation crates for pregnant pigs.

In 2017, McDonald’s reached out to the HSUS to let us know that it was only buying pork from suppliers who shared that goal. That sounded great, but given that there were no major pork suppliers who’d pledged to end gestation crates, we were puzzled as to how it could be true. So we pressed McDonald’s for details. And that’s when it became clear to us that McDonald’s was not actually “ending” gestation crates for pregnant pigs, as it had publicly declared, but merely reducing their use.

Here’s how it works: A pig’s pregnancy lasts 16 weeks. Rather than getting pigs out of crates for that entire time, McDonald’s decided to let its suppliers continue to lock pigs in gestation crates for the first four to six weeks and only then move them into group housing. That amounts to a reduction of gestation crate confinement—but certainly not the end of it. And because pigs in these settings endure several pregnancies a year, McDonald’s approach means they still spend much of their lives locked up.

From 2017 to 2020, we privately challenged McDonald’s on this, but the company refused to budge. We eventually made its remarkable double-speak public in our 2020 Food Industry Scorecard (McDonald’s earned an “F” grade), but McDonald’s still wouldn’t move. Meanwhile, the company continued issuing misleading statements about its progress—maintaining that it was “phasing out” gestation crates.

At a certain point, we’d seen enough. We decided to elevate our concerns through shareholder advocacy, where we have a lot of experience and a record of success. Since 2005, the HSUS has owned stock in many major companies whose business decisions and practices touch animal welfare concerns, so that we may use our influence as stockholders to bring about change. Through our shareholder advocacy efforts, we’ve gained a number of allies and a lot of goodwill. Most importantly, we’ve moved companies to implement cage-free egg policies, gestation crate-free pork policies, fur-free policies and make other important reforms for animals.

In November 2021, as stockholders of McDonald’s, the HSUS filed a shareholder proposal with the company (which will be voted on at the company’s annual meeting this spring) about its misleading gestation crate claims.

McDonald’s spring meeting promises to be something of a double reckoning on animal welfare. First, there is our shareholder proposal, which points out the inconsistencies between what McDonald’s says it’s doing about gestation crates and the reality for pigs in its supply chain, and which calls for disclosure that would give shareholders the truth.

Second, we expect that there will be two independent candidates for the McDonald’s board, qualified people who we think could help the company straighten course and deliver in earnest on the promises it has made in the past: Maisie Ganzler and Leslie Samuelrich. Ms. Ganzler is a senior executive at Bon Appetit Management Company, a food service company with a stellar track record on animal welfare. Ms. Samuelrich is president of Green Century Capital Management, a socially responsible investment firm that’s taken strong stands in favor of better animal treatment in the food industry. The HSUS will be proud to vote our McDonald’s shares in favor of their candidacies.

It is pretty simple to comprehend what has occurred here: McDonald’s broke its promise to eliminate gestation crates for these mother pigs, who continue to suffer in the company’s supply chain—day after day, week after week. We think it’s time for their misery to end, and we’ll continue pressing McDonald’s to eliminate gestation crates once and for all. We have never shied away from a fight for what’s right for animals and will continue fighting for them in the public arena, in corporate contexts, in state legislatures, in the courts and beyond.

Farm Animals

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  1. Diana Lewis says:

    Tragically strategic! McDonald’s! You are better than this!

    • Dave Lutes says:

      Unfortunately, Mcdonald’s is not better than this. They are just another greed-laden corporate cesspool. Except for salad, they serve absolutely nothing that is healthy for any animal. All while torturing the animals that they subject to a caged existence and slaughter. McDonald’s, a bottom of the barrel example of a shining corporate citizen. You’ll never see my smiling face in a building sporting the golden arches.

    • Ranay Peck, M.S.P.S.; M.S.Ed. says:

      I will always be a vegan and will never purchase anything at McDonalds until they stop using pigs that were raised in gestation crates. Pigs are very intelligent individuals and they can often be taught things. They are as smart as a dog and keeping these poor animals in crates for up to two years is both inhumane and cruel. We have plans on going to our local papers regarding McDonalds until they start purchasing their pork from more humane areas. These poor animals suffer immensely and are not even able to turn around. How anyone is allowed to raise an animal in these conditions is very surprising to me. We, as a family will advertise on FACEBOOK and our local papers regarding McDonalds and their lack of welfare for these animals unless they change their purchasing requirements. Ranay Peck, M.S.Ed., M.S.P.S.

  2. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Se tiene que respetar la vida de los animalitos esto tiene que acabar ya no lo podemos permitir ya no mas abusos hacia los animalitos por parte de empresas que por años solo buscan enrriqueserse mas

  3. TON says:

    Me and family and business will no longer do business at McD

  4. Lesley Partridge says:

    It’s about time Mc Donald’s realised their customers want a better life for animals. They need to understand that eventually people will want some reassurance in writing that their burgers are made from animals that have had a good life and death.

    • Elizabeth Rutledge says:


    • Carola says:

      Go vegan! That way no animals will get hurt, now or in the future. You can’t trust these for-profit enterprises, not ever. In fact, Stanley Milgram got it right when he suggested that the human personality could not be trusted to respond to ethical situations with compassion. “The Emperor has no clothes.”

      The animals deserve lives worth living, not “better” prisons.

  5. Elizabeth Rutledge says:

    This more than sickens me. I can feel the agony that those animals must be forced to ensure! Torture and murder are never acceptable. I AM LITERALLY BEGGING YOU TO STOP TORTURING THE ANIMALS! I have stopped going to McDonalds over this as has everyone I know who cares about animals! Pigs are HE and SHE’s and NOT it’s. They feel fear and pain and lonely just as YOU DO. Please, put yourself in the place of these living beings and stop torturing them. YOU can do what I cannot; YOU CAN PHYSICALLY SAVE THE ANIMALS. Please do so.

  6. Norma says:

    They always make promises–never keep them, not just McDonalds but other companies as well. I am so sorry for all our beautiful animals that are killed every day for food and profits.

  7. Bert Shaw says:

    I and my large family will boy-cot McDonald’s until they keep their word

  8. Jeane Camargo da Silva says:

    Meus filhos não irão mais comprar os produtos do Mac. Lamentável!

  9. Carol Gatzert says:

    I appreciate everything you are doing in
    Spreading awareness and changing laws
    If everyone knew the conditions in which these animals live and how they are treated, I believe changes would begin to happen. We need to do whatever we can to spread awareness. Billboards would be an effective way… just one of the many ways to share the truth.

  10. Maureen Proksel says:

    They’ll only change when their practices
    become a PR nightmare.

  11. Mary Sprinkle says:

    I will no longer be a McDonalds customer. I had no idea this was happening and that McDonalds was willingly participating in this cruelty. So disappointed in you.

  12. Danielle says:

    This why I won’t eat at McDonald’s don’t eat meat period I think, plant based meat should take place instead of animals at all let them be animals.I eat veggie burgers abs plant based the food is good , and it is healthier.

  13. ken jenner says:

    not nice to animal and workers

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