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The Daily Poetry Movement

Alice Walker. PETA. KFC. Animal conditions match slavery in many ways, what can we do to end this barbarism. First, take the time to get informed. Second, take the time to inform others. Third, organize. Just one small demostration will inform one new person. With each person our movement takes flight.
Mothers' Day
May 9, 2004

Dear Mr. Novak:

Suppose in a future life you come back as a chicken. You are small and fuzzy and scared.
You are soft. Beautiful. Yellow, with bright orange legs. Tiny feet. Innocent, deeply
curious eyes.

You are in a place that does not live up to you. It is dark and hot; there is no fresh air. It
stinks. As soon as you are born, part of your mouth, your tender beak, is burned off.
This indescribable pain is your introduction to life.
It will be a short life.

Each day "managed" by hands and machines you can barely glimpse and comprehend not
at all. You are in a cage with so many others! You feel your body, stuffed with food and
hormones, pressing against the bodies around you. It reminds you perhaps of the lifetime
ago when you were a human slave in a ship enduring the Middle Passage.

You feel heavy and hot, suffocating, because you are constantly drugged; your body forced
to grow so large and fast your bones cannot support it: they begin to break.
After an infinity of unbearable pain you are lifted out of the cage into which you
were born, and from which your mother was taken immediately after your birth, and
dumped, with thousands of others, into a vat of boiling water. Most of the others are dead,
but for some reason, you are not. You drown, choking, in the smelly, scalding water.
You have not had one moment in which to touch earth, to see the sky, to enjoy a worm;
you have had no chance to experience a mother's love, to receive the rich comfort of
hearing a father's cocky crow, or to feel the kind hand on your feathers of a caring human

Your body, broken though it is, and smeared with the excrement that left it because you
were so afraid as you died, is plucked of its sickly covering of feathers, cut up, and sent to
the place where it will be covered with white flour and herbs, fried in hot fat, and presented
to human families who have no way of knowing they are eating - bringing into their own
bodies (and spirits) - the deep suffering, fear and misery of your largely unlived life.
I do not wish this for you. I do not wish it for myself. I do not wish it for the
thousands that eat at Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).

We do not know what Life has in mind for us, or how many lifetimes we are going to
have. Understanding this, it is wise, I believe, to avoid acts of cruelty and violence and to
put our trust and effort into consideration of all "others" with whom we share the planet; as
we extend, uphold and honor all acts of universal kindness.

With an embrace
for you
& deep hopes for health
and happiness
to your
In peace,

Alice Walker


Watch the KFC movie

Print the leaflet and distribute it


Chickens are as smart as mammals, including some primates, according to animal behaviorist Dr. Chris Evans, who runs the animal behavior lab at Macquarie University in Australia and lectures on his work with chickens. He explains that, for example, chickens are able to understand that recently hidden objects still exist, which is actually beyond the capacity of small children. Discussing chickens' various capacities, he says, "As a trick at conferences I sometimes list these attributes, without mentioning chickens, and people think I'm talking about monkeys."

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YOU ARE EATING BABIES WHO ARE BOILED ALIVE BLOOD DRIPPING FROM THEIR SLIT THROAT into the putrid water, yes this is a sentient being who is as smart as your child.

Chickens are often still fully conscious when their throats are slit or when they are dumped into tanks of scalding hot water to remove their feathers. When they're killed, chickens are still babies, not yet 2 months old, out of a natural life span of 10 to 15 years.

You are responsible.
The average American meat-eater is responsible for the abuse and deaths of approximately 2,500 chickens.

What KFC Needs to Improve
Chickens are probably the most abused animals on the planet. They have their sensitive beaks seared off with hot blades and are crammed into tiny cages with the decomposing remains of other birds. Hundreds of thousands are left to starve to death, and huge numbers die as a result of long journeys in extreme weather conditions. Basically, any and all abuse is allowable when it comes to chickens, who are, in fact, remarkable animals with distinct personalities and intelligence that, if allowed to develop, is as advanced as that of cats and dogs. Most importantly, they feel pain, just as we do.

The following is a basic outline of PETA's recommended animal-welfare program:
Adopt the "Animal Care Standards" program. This program creates guidelines to protect chickens on factory farms and covers issues such as ammonia concentration, lighting conditions, and living space in chicken sheds. It also prohibits intentional starvation of breeding birds and states that birds must be provided with mental and physical stimulation.
Replace electrical stunning and throat slicing with controlled-atmosphere stunning-to-kill. Experts agree that controlled-atmosphere killing causes much less suffering than KFC's present method of snapping chickens' legs into metal shackles and cutting their throats open, often while they are still conscious.
Switch to humane mechanized chicken gathering. Studies have shown that using manual methods results in four times as many broken legs, more than eight times as much bruising, and increased stress.
Breed for health rather than forcing rapid growth, and stop feeding drugs to chickens. Breed leaner, healthier, less aggressive birds instead of breeding the biggest, fattest birds possible, and stop feeding chickens antibiotics and other drugs for nontherapeutic purposes.

But KFC Says...

When PETA launched its campaign against KFC on January 7, 2003, KFC started what would become a lasting trend of lies and duplicity. First, it sent out a news release that was riddled with inaccuracies. When PETA challenged the release, KFC removed it from its Web site, but it had already been faxed to the media. KFC's Web site remained grossly inaccurate, and PETA tried to convince KFC to change it. In July 2003, PETA took KFC to court, forcing the company to make sweeping changes to its site.

KFC still attempts to suggest that its animal-welfare program has made "progress," but its claims are nothing more than corporate "greenwash." Yum! Brands, KFC's parent company, is a multibillion-dollar corporation and, as such, does an extremely effective job of glossing over its failures and disingenuousness.

The sad reality is that KFC continues to support the worst abuses of chickens, and Yum! continues to support the worst abuses of other farmed animals. Effective public relations may ease the consciences of Yum! executives, but these animals continue to be treated in ways that would warrant prison terms for these same executives if dogs and cats, rather than pigs and chickens, were the victims.

Claims and Responses

The following are actual quotes from KFC.com (as displayed on September 3, 2003) shown in italics, coupled with PETA's responses.

"We have the opportunity, and responsibility, to influence the way animals supplied to us are treated. We take that responsibility very seriously, and we are monitoring our suppliers on an ongoing basis to determine whether our suppliers are using humane procedures for caring for and handling animals they supply to us."

KFC suppliers scald millions of fully conscious chickens to death every year; pick up chickens by their broken or crippled legs, four or five birds in each hand, and slam them into transport crates; and breed and drug them to grow so quickly that their legs break and their organs fail. These are hardly "humane procedures." The fact is that KFC has done nothing whatsoever to eliminate the worst abuses at the factory farms and slaughterhouses that supply chickens to its restaurants, and any claim that it is living up to its responsibility is simply false.

"[I]t is our goal to only deal with suppliers who promise to maintain our high standards and share our commitment to animal welfare."

There have been two undercover investigations into KFC suppliers in the past year, and both have turned up extreme neglect and horrific abuse of chickens. Click here to read about an investigation into a supplier outside of Melbourne, Australia. Click here to read about an investigation into a supplier in the U.K. which prompted the following headline in the Sunday Mirror (one of the largest newspapers in the world, with a readership of more than 5 million): "Distressed and Dying in a Cramped Shed ... Nobody Does Chicken Like KFC." The abuse at these farms is consistent with what KFC allows at all its suppliers, which belies its claim of upholding "high standards."

"KFC has had an animal welfare policy for a number of years. In 2000, KFC adopted specific, comprehensive welfare performance standards for processing chickens and audits its suppliers against those standards."

First, the science is clear on the issues that PETA has raised, and KFC's own panelists agree with PETA. Not only is Yum! ignoring the latest research on contained-atmosphere killing of chickens and broiler breeders, and all the other issues that we raise, it has also done absolutely nothing to improve the lives of the other animals who are killed for its restaurants (e.g., fish for Long John Silver or cattle, pigs, and dairy cows for Taco Bell, A&W, and Pizza Hut). As the most glaring example from among many, gestation crates were recently banned by voter initiative in Florida because of their excessive cruelty, yet Yum! continues to use them.

Second, KFC's "animal welfare guidelines" (which, contrary to KFC's statement, were adopted in 2003, not 2000) were written by the meat industry and should be called "animal abuse guidelines" because they do not prevent a single one of the worst abuses that chickens suffer on factory farms and in slaughterhouses, such as suffering from chronic lameness and leg disorders, enduring extreme overcrowding, being forcefully thrown into transport crates, being slammed into shackles that can break their already-injured legs, having their throats slit while they are still conscious and able to feel pain, and being scalded alive in tanks of hot water.

Third, even if KFC's "standards" weren't so pathetic, KFC's auditing program is self-regulated, which is rather like claiming that you have a speed limit but refusing to hire patrol officers.

"To assist us in that effort, Yum! Brands formed the Yum! Brands Animal Welfare Advisory Council, which consists of highly regarded experts in the field. The Council provides us with information and advice based on relevant data and scientific research. The Animal Welfare Advisory Council has been a key factor in formulating Yum! Brands' animal welfare program."

Yes, KFC formed a talented and well-respected Animal Welfare Advisory Council, hiring four of PETA's five recommended experts, which led PETA to believe that improvements for KFC's chickens would soon follow. However, despite the fact that PETA's recommended animal-welfare guidelines are supported by the four members of this panel who do not have strong industry ties and by KFC's own scientific research, the company has done nothing to implement them. As an indication of how bad things are, two of the four panelists who actually cared about animal welfare are no longer on the panel, leaving it dominated by industry representatives and apologists who do not have the best interests of KFC's chickens in mind. KFC's animal-welfare panel cannot be trusted to provide unbiased advice, and even if it could, KFC wouldn't listen.

"Birds arriving at the plant should be clean and in good health."

Birds routinely arrive at KFC "plants" (slaughterhouses) with broken legs from poor breeding; broken wings from abusive handling during transport; cracked, ulcerated feet and sores on their breasts from living in their own filth; and a host of other injuries. Millions arrive dead. These birds can hardly be described as being "clean and in good health."

"KFC also prohibits its suppliers from trimming the beaks on any poultry that will be sold in our restaurants."

This is an example of KFC's expert doublespeak. It's true that the chickens who "will be sold in [KFC's] restaurants" do not have their beaks seared off—chickens who are killed and eaten are never debeaked. It is the chickens who breed those raised for food who have their beaks seared off; otherwise, they would peck one another to death because of the horribly abusive breeding programs and stressful living conditions that they are forced to endure. KFC's breeding chickens are debeaked, just like all the rest, yet it attempts to distract consumers from the truth with misleading wording.

"KFC's guidelines also provide that every reasonable precaution should be taken to minimize injury to birds arriving at our supplier's plants."

KFC's definition of "reasonable precaution" would make any kind person blanch. KFC has steadfastly refused to adopt the latest technology in chicken transport: mechanized gathering, in which gentle, well-designed machines, rather than underpaid, undertrained workers, are used to load chickens into crates for transport. These machines significantly reduce bruising and broken bones and are already in use at a number of chicken farms, yet KFC refuses to require them. It would certainly be a "reasonable precaution" for KFC to use the most up-to-date technology available to the industry, and its refusal to do so is rather like Ford refusing to install seat belts in its cars and still claiming that it is taking "every reasonable precaution" to ensure that drivers are protected.

"Our suppliers' stunning equipment should be maintained to confirm that birds are insensible prior to slaughter, and the time between stunning and slaughter should be limited to minimize any likelihood that a bird may regain consciousness prior to slaughter."

KFC's own guidelines allow for and, in fact, expect millions of chickens every year to go through the slaughter process unstunned, which means that their throats are slit, and they are dumped into tanks of scalding-hot water while they are still fully conscious and able to feel pain. Millions more regain consciousness prior to slaughter, despite KFC's claims to the contrary, because many slaughterhouses set the stunning voltage too low in order to protect the meat. Controlled-atmosphere killing, which PETA has recommended to KFC, is the most humane way of killing chickens available, would prevent all these welfare problems, and is supported by KFC's panelists, who are not tied to the industry.

"KFC's policy prohibits it [sic] suppliers from using antibiotics to promote the growth of healthy chickens where such antibiotics are significant to human health."

Use of antibiotics to promote growth in chickens is common in the industry, and KFC is no exception. KFC is hiding behind the claim that such antibiotics are insignificant to human health, a claim that is contradicted by the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and other scientists who care about human health. KFC uses antibiotics to force chickens to grow so quickly that their bones break and their organs fail, causing many to suffer from fatal heart attacks or crippling leg deformities. Leg deformities can, in turn, lead to sores and burns on chickens who have to spend their lives lying down in filthy litter that is contaminated with their own waste and ammonia.

"Dr. Temple Grandin, Colorado State University—'KFC and its Animal Welfare Council are establishing very specific, quantifiable broiler processing facility guidelines. I look forward to working closely with KFC as it implements its audit program to ensure supplier compliance with those guidelines.'"

First, this quote deals exclusively with slaughter, which is not clear from KFC's placement of it. Second, according to this quote, KFC's audit program has not been implemented yet, and supplier compliance with its meager guidelines is not at all assured. Third, KFC's guidelines do not follow Dr. Grandin's recommendations to prevent the worst abuses of chickens, like live scalding and poor breeding, and are far from adequate to protect KFC's chickens.

"Terrie Dort, President of the National Council of Chain Restaurants—'KFC has been instrumental in helping initiate and lead the process we are now engaged in to develop comprehensive, industry-wide guidelines for farm animals.'"

PETA supports the work of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the National Council of Chain Restaurants (NCCR) to eliminate some of the abuses that farmed animals suffer. However, the FMI/NCCR guidelines do not protect chickens (or other animals) from the worst abuses and do not do any of the things that McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, and Safeway have done. Because of industry influence, they do not follow the best science and do not even eliminate horrible abuses, like starving hens for two full weeks in order to shock their bodies into another laying cycle.


Anyone who understands the amount of suffering that goes into a bucket of KFC's chicken wings would scoff at the idea that the company has done near enough to improve animal welfare and decrease abuse. KFC is in for a long battle; PETA and consumers who are concerned about cruelty to animals will not forgive the company for its insensitivity to the suffering of animals until Yum! commits to substantial improvements in the way that animals raised for its restaurants live and die.

Baby steps are not enough. Committee meetings are not enough. Vague "principles" are not enough. Nothing short of comprehensive, international, mandatory supplier guidelines (the very guidelines that its own "principles" embrace) will be enough to stop PETA's campaign and significantly improve the lives of the more than 750 million chickens killed each year for KFC.

Frequently Asked Questions

The following are the most frequently asked questions about KFC's animal-welfare standards and PETA's campaign.

Q: How does KFC get away with lying to the public about its standards?
A: We sued KFC for its bald-faced lies and won. KFC can not refute anything that we're saying, so it is now reverting to vague terms.

Q: Isn't PETA against eating any meat or dairy products?
A: We actively promote a vegan diet, yes, but PETA is always pragmatic. Our first question in every situation is, "What is in the best interest of the animals?" We support any action that will help reduce cruelty to animals, and every decent person would agree that animals should not be grossly mistreated. Unfortunately, the power of the meat industry trumps public opinion, and KFC and its suppliers are able to get away with abuses that would be illegal if they were inflicted on dogs and cats. That's why we are turning to consumers who care and initiating a public-pressure campaign to push for the changes that customers want.

Q: Don't chickens have to be treated well in order to grow efficiently?
A: Absolutely not. Chickens are fed massive doses of antibiotics (more than three times as many as are fed to cattle or human beings) so that they do not have to be treated well. In fact, the birds would die from the abusive treatment if not for the drugs used to keep them alive. KFC's chickens are slaughtered before they reach 2 months of age, out of a natural lifespan of more than 10 years. Even if they were not killed while still in infancy, these birds would not survive to adulthood because of the illnesses and injuries that arise from their inhumane treatment.

Q: What is the bare minimum that KFC must do to end PETA's campaign against it?
A: Click here to read a letter that addresses precisely this question. In a nutshell, KFC would have to, at a minimum, implement the following four-point plan for improving animal welfare at the factory farms and slaughterhouse that supply chickens for its restaurants:
Adopt the "Animal Care Standards" program. This program creates guidelines to protect chickens on factory farms and covers issues such as ammonia concentration, lighting conditions, and living space in chicken sheds; intentional starvation of breeding birds; and mental and physical stimulation for the animals.
Replace electrical stunning and throat cutting with controlled-atmosphere killing. Experts agree that controlled-atmosphere killing causes much less suffering than KFC's present method of snapping chickens' legs into metal shackles and cutting their throats open, often while they are still conscious.
Switch to humane mechanized chicken gathering. Studies have shown that using manual methods results in four times as many broken legs, more than eight times as much bruising, and increased stress.
Breed for health rather than forcing rapid growth, and stop feeding drugs to chickens. Breed leaner, healthier, less aggressive birds instead of breeding the biggest, fattest birds possible, and stop feeding chickens antibiotics and other drugs for nontherapeutic purposes.

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