What's Really in McDonald's Happy Meals? Here's the Awful Truth

“We have a responsibility to care for the millions of animals in our supply chain… We understand and acknowledge the significant responsibility we have to help ensure these animals experience good welfare throughout their lives.”

These are the statements that head the Animal Health and Welfare section of the McDonald’s website.

Let’s imagine that you are a chicken born onto a farm that supplies McDonald’s. During the course of your short, miserable life, your baby body will grow to mammoth proportions. If you’re unlucky enough to survive the first weeks (about 4.4% of birds will not), your weak legs, likely deformed skeleton, and underdeveloped internal organs will all strain from the pounds of meat you were born to grow. (Here’s some startling context: if humans grew at a rate similar to McDonald’s chickens, they would weigh 660 pounds at just two months old.) Your weak body will rest on soiled litter, so you’ll develop painful lesions on your legs and the bottom of your feet. After a few weeks of life, you’ll be trucked off to the slaughterhouse, never having known anything but your miserable time in an overcrowded, noxious shed.

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This is standard treatment for virtually all chickens in the U.S., but things are starting to change. Thanks to the efforts of compassionate people and organizations around the country, major companies—including Subway and Burger King—have signed on to major reforms in their supply chain. These comprehensive changes include breeds of birds who will suffer less as they grow, more space for each animal, and better housing conditions. Despite nearly 100 major companies signing on to this pledge, there has been one standout who has resisted change: McDonald’s.

In fact, worse than resisting, McDonald’s has misled their customers by putting out a policy that mimics the tone and style of the real pledge, but omits the most meaningful reforms.

Our goal is to educate the public about this deception. The Humane League is standing up to fast-food behemoth McDonald’s in our most ambitious campaign to date: urging the company to implement meaningful welfare reforms its competitors have for the millions of chickens raised and killed for its menu items.

On March 25, a full-page ad ran in the New York Times as an open letter to McDonald’s from a joint coalition comprised of some of the nation’s largest animal protection groups. The coalition of organizations includes my organization The Humane League, as well as Animal Equality, Compassion in World Farming, Compassion Over Killing, Mercy For Animals, and World Animal Protection. Each group in the coalition is aligned in our ask for McDonald's to implement higher, science-based animal welfare standards.

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A full-page ad ran in the New York Times on Sunday, March 25 announcing a joint coalition effort from some of the nation’s largest nonprofits in their aligned ask for McDonald’s to commit to welfare reforms for the chickens in its supply chain. (image: Cristyn Hypnar, The Humane League)

Outside of the coalition efforts, my colleagues at The Humane League and I attempted to meet with McDonald’s leadership on March 27 at their headquarters in Oak Brook, IL. Unfortunately, they refused to even come to the lobby to address us, despite our having previous conversations with leadership about revising their chicken welfare policy.

While it is disappointing that the leadership of such a powerful company is actively neglecting to take our requests seriously, we are not discouraged. After our visit to HQ, we took to the streets and sidewalks of Chicago to bring our “I’m Not Lovin’ It” campaign to McDonald’s doorstep. The hard-hitting actions took Chicago by storm with larger-than-life stunts and gatherings. Throughout the week, a 6x10 ft. UnHappy Meal art installation grabbed attention throughout downtown Chicago alongside two enormous mobile billboards, which exposed the sad truth behind the origins of McDonald’s food.

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To kick off the week of actions in Chicago, "I'm Not Lovin' It" mobile billboards and a 6x10 foot Unhappy Meal art installation toured the city of Chicago for hours every day. (image: Cristyn Hypnar, The Humane League)

An attention-grabbing protest with more than 50 activists, volunteers, and concerned Chicagoans took over an entire city block as hundreds of passersby stopped to ask questions and take photos. Our very own Ronald McDonald and an unsettlingly realistic ‘broiler chicken’ costume (courtesy of our friends at Mercy for Animals) joined us at the protest and demonstrations, catching the attention of many members of the public in search of more information about the “I’m Not Lovin’ It’ campaign. The week also saw the launch of dozens of ads on benches, buildings, projections, and billboards throughout the Chicagoland area.

Nationally, The Humane League is leading an extensive ad series comprised of Ronald McDonald-spoof campaign videos that show the dark side of McDonald’s beloved clown.

Watch "Don’t Trust Ronald":

We are also leading social media actions, outreach to corporate partners, mobilizing hundreds of students on university campuses and thousands of volunteers nationwide, among other strategic actions from coast to coast. These actions are fueled by The Humane League’s legions of volunteers, advocates, and members of Fast Action Network, an online platform curated by The Humane League with thousands of members around the world. For more background and live updates about the campaign, visit ImNotLovinIt.com and follow on social media with the hashtag #imnotlovinit.

Watch "What’s Really Inside Your Happy Meal":

McDonald’s acknowledges that they have an enormous responsibility: the wellbeing of millions of animals raised and killed for their food. Right now, they are failing those animals and misleading the public about the terrible cruelty they are responsible for. Please get involved and help change the world for chickens.

Scroll down for more photos of the "I'm Not Lovin' It" campaign (all photos by Cristyn Hypnar, The Humane League):

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A protest with dozens of protesters, mobile billboards, 6x10 foot ‘Unhappy Meal’ art piece, banners, Ronald McDonald and chicken characters, and more launched outside of a McDonald's in the heart of Chicago on March 28.

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Clarké Snell, Chicago Grassroots Director at The Humane League, led the "I'm Not Lovin' It" demonstration and virtual reality tabling event in Wicker Park on March 29.

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The Humane League launched its "I'm Not Lovin' It" campaign in Chicago with a week of on-the-ground actions, including chalking sidewalks throughout the city with information about the campaign.

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Advertisements in the Chicago Reader launched at the end of March with a clear message to the city: Don't Trust Ronald.

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The Humane League hosted a virtual reality tabling event in partnership with Animal Equality alongside the campaign's larger than life UnHappy Meal art installation in Wicker Park on March 29.

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Dozens of projections on buildings, ads on benches and buildings, and mobile billboards launched at the end of March and will continue to run throughout Chicago for the duration of the campaign.

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A protest with dozens of protesters, mobile billboards, 6 x 10 foot ‘Unhappy Meal’ art piece, banners, Ronald McDonald and chicken characters, and more launched outside of a McDonald's in the heart of Chicago on March 28.

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Ronald McDonald and chicken characters educated the public about McDonald's chicken supply chain during the week of demonstrations in Chicago, which resulted in many people taking to social media to spread the message.

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Ronald took to the streets of Chicago to spread the message of the "I'm Not Lovin' It" campaign alongside bench ads, mobile billboards, and projections on buildings.


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