The Humane League has hit out at McDonald's animal-welfare record in a new campaign.
The international animal-rights group says the restaurant chain is failing to commit to "meaningful improvements for chickens", highlighting how poultry raised and killed for McDonald's is bred in cramped conditions. It adds that chickens also grow to such a large size that they are unable to move because of their excess weight.
The "McGhoster" campaign – a play on The Humane League's suggestion that McDonald's is "ghosting" its responsibility – is launching with an online film called "The party's over".
It is supported by a series of posters, ad vans and social posts, all aimed at building awareness and encouraging consumers to sign a petition demanding better treatment of chickens at McGhoster.com.
The film features the aftermath of a debauched party at the "McDonald’s mansion", leading the viewer from room to room, accompanied by angry voicemails left by a range of people who believe they have been misled by the host of the party.
It has references to McDonald’s throughout, including fries, a numberplate reading "B1G M4C" and a set of pool noodles floating in the shape of the golden arches. There are arresting images of chickens being treated cruelly, from one with a slashed neck to an ice sculpture of a chicken melting in the sun.
The campaign also aims to highlight how eating meat from sick and debilitated chickens, raised within confined factory farms, can put humans at risk of contracting bacterial infections such as salmonella and campylobacter.
Taylor Ford, director of campaigns at The Humane League, said: "What we’re asking for is perfectly reasonable and an essential part of McDonald’s ethical responsibilities. The commitment we are asking McDonald’s to sign simply addresses the very worst suffering endured by chickens.
"The changes we are proposing are supported by scientific evidence, backed by leading animal-protection charities and have been adopted by over 130 companies in the US."
In response to the campaign, a spokesperson for McDonald's said: "We’re committed to sourcing our food and packaging sustainably. This includes continuing to invest significantly to raise welfare standards for the animals in our supply chain and undertaking research to increase industry understanding of the challenges that remain.
"The farms which rear chickens for McDonald's UK menu must meet independently set farm assurance standards and, in addition to this, for a number of years we have required them to provide enrichment objects for the birds to peck and perch on, as well as windows in their houses to provide natural light."
McDonald's recently announced the launch of a Global Chicken Sustainability Advisory Council, a multi-stakeholder group made up of animal health and welfare experts, global suppliers and NGOs.
"This group will provide deep expertise, diverse perspectives and recommendations for evolving our chicken welfare and sustainability strategy across the world," the spokesperson added.
"The party's over" was created by Don't Panic, the agency's first work for The Humane League since it was appointed agency of record in June. It was directed by Matias Rygh and Mathias Eriksen through Object & Animal.