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16 July 2000 Issue

McDonald's Talks To Kids, Why Not PETA?
by Alison Green, AlisonG@PETA-Online.org
2000 Knight Ridder
http://www.commondreams.org/views/070500-101.htm
Source vrc@tiac.net (Maynard S. Clark)

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 Big Macs.

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 children?

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 animals.

OFFER REBUFFED

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 European Union.

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 seriously.

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 of Animals.

Go on to Boulder City Council Votes to Replace Animal "Owner" with Animal Guardian
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