The cow pie sure hit the fan last week, as a battalion
of columnists, editorial writers and radio talk-show hosts condemned
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' Unhappy Meal. The spoof on
McDonald's Happy Meals, which includes photos of animals on factory
farms, is meant to show kids the true origin of their cheeseburgers and
If you listened to the some of the least amused
commentators, you'd think no one had ever suggested taking a message
straight to kids before. Of course, just the opposite is true. Marketing
professionals will tell you that kids are a favorite target of companies
hawking everything from toys to sugary cereals to, yes, greasy burgers.
In 1997 the British High Court ruled that McDonald's
exploits children with its advertising.
But where is the outrage over the fact that McDonald's
targets kids far more aggressively than the tobacco industry targets
teens, directing much of its annual $2 billion ad budget toward
FAST-FOOD, BIG PUSH
Ronald McDonald is the food industry's Joe Camel, making
a buck off kids at the expense of their health, pushing fatty products
that set them up for a lifetime of cancer, heart disease, stroke and
other killers -- not to mention helping to make this generation of kids
the fattest ever.
Kids are paying the price: Most children today have
signs of artery blockages before they finish high school, and some
before they get to first grade, thanks to diets heavy in meat and dairy.
But despite the fact that every reputable source of nutrition
information now says that we drastically should reduce, if not
eliminate, our consumption of animal foods in order to prevent disease,
the meat industry continues to push its products on children.
The misrepresentation doesn't stop there. Ronald
McDonald even has told children that hamburgers grow in patches like
vegetables. Most kids love animals and never would intentionally hurt
them, but no one is giving them the other side of the story.
The same court that found that McDonald's exploits kids
also ruled that the company is ``culpably responsible'' for cruelty to
A McDonald's training video tells slaughterhouse workers
that as many as one in every 20 cows may be skinned and dismembered
while conscious, in direct violation of U.S. Department of Agriculture
regulation. Animals raised for McDonald's are crowded into tiny stalls
and cages and subjected to painful procedures like debeaking without
anesthesia -- practices so cruel that they've been banned in the
PETA has offered to abandon the Unhappy Meal campaign
altogether if McDonald's simply will bring its U.S. suppliers up to the
same animal-welfare standards that the company now uses in its European
restaurants, a simple step for a $36 billion-a-year corporation that
claims to take animal welfare
To date, McDonald's has refused.
Kids have a right to know that their chicken nuggets and
sausage McMuffins had a miserable life before ending up in a take-out
bag. Just as schools show kids pictures of diseased lungs to show the
effects of smoking and photos of grisly car crashes to illustrate the
consequences of drunk driving, PETA's Unhappy Meals show kids the
consequences of eating at McDonald's: a diet that's fatal to both
animals and humans.
If the truth about our food is too gruesome to share
with our children, isn't it too gruesome to feed to them? Parents
concerned about their child getting a glimpse of an Unhappy Meal should
embrace a healthy diet that they can be honest about with their kids.
Alison Green writes for People for the Ethical Treatment
Go on to Boulder
City Council Votes to Replace Animal "Owner" with Animal Guardian
Return to 16 July 2000 Issue
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