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Photo by: John Whipple

Why Did the Protester Cross the Road?

Last Wednesday (Aug. 18), 10 local activists joined five visiting members of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, including one dressed as a chicken in a wheelchair, for an hourlong protest outside the Delaware Avenue Kentucky Fried Chicken. The protest was part of a nearly 2-year-old international campaign to convince KFC’s parent corporation, Yum! Brands, to improve the standards to which it holds its chicken suppliers. PETA’s complaints, discovered through undercover investigations, include extreme overcrowding, chickens that could only drag themselves by their wings, and chickens being thrown and stomped by workers and scalded to death. One investigator told the U.K. Sunday Mirror, “I have investigated animal welfare for many years, but this easily ranks amongst some of the worst cruelty I have seen.”

The KFC employees “didn’t seem very pleased that we were out there,” said Joe Hinckle, vegan campaign coordinator for PETA. Hinckle said the employees initially tried to tell the protesters they couldn’t be on the sidewalk, but quickly backed down when they realized they were wrong. A KFC manager declined to comment.

Yum! has put together an animal-welfare advisory committee, and claims to be holding suppliers to high standards, but PETA says it is still generating more corporate doublespeak than action. As one example, PETA notes on its Web site that Yum! promises that chickens destined for KFC restaurants are never debeaked, which avoids the fact that it is the breeders that are subject to painful debeaking.

It may seem a little odd for people who advocate a vegan diet to recommend more humane farming and killing methods, but it’s a matter of tactics. “If we stood outside KFC just telling people not to eat chicken period, I don’t think a lot of people would listen to what we were saying,” said Hinckle, who is quick to clarify that “we definitely encourage people not to eat the chicken period.”

If KFC is afraid nothing it can do—short of switching to Tofurkey—will get PETA off its back, it should be noted that in the past four years PETA has called off campaigns against McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s after those chains agreed to sufficient animal-welfare improvements.

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