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PART I    Cracking Down on Egg Suppliers    Page  1  2  3  4  5  6

Pressure from Protesters

Protesters: "Shut McDonald's down! Shut McDonald's down!"

The movement against globalization was taking off. Protesters wanted McDonald's to leave their countries alone. They firebombed its restaurants in Belgium; they set off stink bombs in Poland. Meanwhile, McDonald's business started to stumble, for various reasons. Competitors like Wendy's and Burger King chipped away at its market share; McDonald's profits and stock started slipping. And company executives started doing some soul-searching. According to industry magazines at the time, executives wondered how they could rejuvenate McDonald's and save the company's legacy as the most popular food business in the world. Just as company executives were mulling that over, the animal rights issue came back to bite them.

PETA's tactics included handing out "Unhappy" Meals. Graphic: PETA

Newscast: "Animal rights groups say that McDonald's is serving more than just hamburgers and they claim it's distasteful. The group delivered that message at the drive-thru today. "

The activists had lost their patience, and they declared war.

Newscast: "Two members of an animal rights group ordered chaos at this McDonald's drive-thru window. They chained themselves to the window blocking access for the noontime lunch crowd. The group was symbolically dressed in chicken and pig costumes."

You wouldn't think that protesters dressed like animals could have much clout against McDonald's. But there they were, on the streets of Salt Lake City. The year was 1997. Over the next few years, activists would be chanting at hundreds of McDonald's across the country. They said the farms that supply the fast food chain abuse chickens and other animals, and it was time for McDonald's to make them stop:

"Boycott McMurder! There's no excuse for animal abuse! Boycott McMurder! There's no excuse for animal abuse!"

The demonstrations were organized by PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Some remember them as a fringe group that hurls blood at fashionable furs. But this time, PETA protesters were passing out brightly colored cardboard boxes to customers heading for McDonald's. If you glanced quickly, the boxes looked like a McDonald's Happy Meal promotion: big cheerful letters, a drawing of the grinning clown; but then you looked closely, it read "Unhappy meal" and Ronald McDonald was swinging an ax. When you opened the box, you didn't find a hamburger, there were plastic animals painted with fake blood. The man who runs McDonald's denounced the protests as "tasteless and dishonest." But when the woman who runs PETA, Ingrid Newkirk, looks back on it today, she says McDonald's was on the ropes:

"Just the very idea that we had taken their trademark Happy Meal and converted it into an Unhappy meal frightened them. Suddenly they didn't want children coming near the restaurant where they would see PETA protestors standing in the kiddy playgrounds with the Unhappy Meal in hand. That sent a chill up McDonald's spine."

Next: PETA'S War on McDonald's

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