KFC is cruel to chickens, says animal rights group

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The Independent Online

Colonel Sanders may claim it tastes finger-lickin' good, but Kentucky Fried Chicken is produced using animal welfare standards that are unacceptable, an animal rights group claims today.

The world's biggest chicken restaurant chain, is being pressured to make life better for the birds it uses with a campaign from the world's biggest animal rights organisation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta).

From this week, selected KFC restaurants in Britain will be subject to demonstrations from activists waving banners proclaiming "Kentucky Fried Cruelty", accompanied by a poster campaign.

In Britain there is wide acceptance, from the Government down, that conditions for broiler chickens – birds intensively bred for meat – are now the most serious remaining farm animal welfare problem, with millions of the 820 million birds bred every year dying before slaughter from illnesses or cramped conditions.

Peta says it wants KFC to end what it claims are "crude and ineffective" electric stunning and throat-slitting to kill birds and replace the process with gas. It also wants the forced rapid growth of chickens to be phased out, more space for each bird, and "minimal enhancements" to the birds' living conditions, such as sheltered areas and perches to provide them with some semblance of their natural environment.

It also calls for automated chicken-catching to reduce the high incidence of bruising, broken bones and stress associated with catching the chickens by hand.

Dawn Carr, director of Peta Europe, said: "KFC is the world's largest killer of chickens, and as such has a responsibility to treat these birds humanely. Nearly 800 million chickens are killed every year in the cruellest ways imaginable. Although our ultimate aim is for people to go vegetarian, we are calling on KFC to implement some welfare standards and make life a little bit better for these birds."

The British protest arises from the clash between KFC and Peta in the United States, where both are based.

From the humble 1939 beginnings in Louisville, Kentucky, of white-haired Colonel Harland Sanders and his "secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices", KFC has grown into a global giant to compare with McDonald's, serving more than two billion meals annually in more than 9,900 restaurants in 82 countries across the world.

Peta, whose previous targets have included celebrities wearing fur and schools serving milk to pupils, has about 750,000 members, most in the US, with about 40,000 in the UK.

The group alleges that KFC and its American parent company, Yum! Brands, have done nothing to improve chicken welfare despite nearly two years of pressure, in contrast to the burger chains McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's, who made changes to their practices after Peta criticism. KFC in Britain had not responded to letters and phone calls from Peta, Ms Carr said.

KFC said yesterday: "KFC is committed to the well-being and humane treatment of chickens, and we require all of our suppliers to follow welfare guidelines developed by us with leading experts on our animal welfare advisory council.

"Our suppliers are receiving unannounced audits at their poultry facilities throughout the year to ensure strict compliance with our guidelines. Failure to comply will result in termination of our supplier agreement, if remedial action is not taken.

"Additionally, we have taken a leadership role with our trade associations to establish standardised guidelines for the entire poultry industry."