Practical Issues >
February 2, 2005
Sharpton Joins With an Animal Rights Group
in Calling for a Boycott of KFC
By MELANIE WARNER
The Rev. Al Sharpton will not eat at KFC and he doesn't think you should either.
Starting today, Mr. Sharpton is joining forces with the animal rights group
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to urge a boycott of KFC, which is
owned by Yum Brands of Louisville, Ky. Mr. Sharpton and PETA want the fast food
chain to require its chicken suppliers to put in place new standards for the
treatment of the 750 million chickens they process for KFC every year in the
United States. The rap mogul Russell Simmons is also joining the Sharpton
"If we give our money to KFC, we're paying for a life of misery for some of
God's most helpless creatures," says Mr. Sharpton in an eight-minute video that
will be shown outside KFC's around the country.
PETA has been waging a campaign against KFC for two years. The organization was
eager to enlist Mr. Sharpton because KFC has many stores in largely black
neighborhoods and in late 2003 KFC executives told investors they were making an
increased effort to market to blacks.
Mr. Sharpton and PETA are demanding that KFC force its chicken suppliers, like
Pilgrim's Pride and Perdue, to give chickens more room in factory barns and to
make use of a process that puts birds to sleep with nitrogen before they are
killed. They are also asking KFC to stop its suppliers from forcing such rapid,
hormone-driven growth that the birds crumple under their own weight.
PETA said that unlike other companies, KFC has been largely unresponsive. "KFC
has been by far the most stubborn corporation we have attempted to work with,"
said PETA's president, Ingrid Newkirk, in a written statement.
Yum Brands, which also own Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, declined to comment on
PETA's demands and allegations. "PETA is an organization more interested in
promoting vegetarianism than the truth," a spokesman, Jonathan Blum, said.
PETA recently won a concession from McDonald's, which said it would study the
possibility of requiring American suppliers to use the process of so-called
Several years ago, in response to PETA's "Unhappy Meal" campaign, McDonald's,
which buys one of every 20 eggs sold in America, agreed to buy eggs only from
farms offering hens extra water, more wing room in their cages and fresh air.
PETA says it has chosen to shed light on the chicken industry in recent years
because large chicken producers and sellers have made little movement toward
more humane practices. "The chicken industry is way behind the beef and pork
industries," said Dr. Temple Grandin, associate professor of animal science at
Colorado State University and a member of Yum Brands' animal welfare advisory
council. "They need to work on getting some of the same auditing systems in
Animal welfare specialists like Dr. Grandin agree with PETA that the short lives
of chickens need to be improved. Dr. Grandin said that as many as 6 percent of
birds suffer broken wings or legs when workers pack them into crates and onto
"A lot of workers aren't adequately trained," said Dr. Mohan Raj, a senior
research fellow at the University of Bristol in Britain and a veterinarian who
has studied chicken welfare practices in the United States.
Animal rights activists are hardly KFC's only problem. In recent years, the
company has been the financial stepchild at Yum Brands. Last year KFC's
same-store sales were down 2 percent; sales increased at Taco Bell and Pizza