In a separate interview, host Deborah Amos asked Terrie Dort, President of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, why the rest of the restaurant industry is beginning to think about animal welfare.
It's unusual to find that McDonald's and animal rights activists are working together. So how did they get those other companies to take the same path as McDonald's? Was it pressure by both the company and the activists?
I think that McDonald's action was a real catalyst for getting the other companies involved. But yes, there was pressure from the activist community, in that they began sending letters to pretty much all the other big playerssaying this is what McDonald's has doneand of course that was quickly followed by Burger King. And there was pressure then put on other companies to state for the record, What are your policies? How do you negotiate with your suppliers? What are you requiring of your suppliers? That's really when the other companies decided there really should be some policies out there and that's what we've been working over the past year and a half. We will put those out as voluntary guidelines that we will ask all of our companies to follow when they are choosing who they are going to have as their suppliers.
While this is a voluntary program, do you expect that animal rights activists will ensure that certain companies do comply?
We intend to implement an auditing program that the industry will put in place. The auditing program will go out to farms to make sure that suppliers are complying. So be assuredthis is not about trying to satisfy PETA. This is really about tying to do the right thing on an issue we feel strongly about. And again we feel the steps we're taking are the appropriate ones. We're not looking at this as an end game to satisfy the activists-because we're not going to.
I know that this is a McDonald's initiative, and that that's what got the ball rolling, and that they worked with animal right's activists, but how much influence do you think that public opinionthe more general public opinion about food and the food we all eathow much did that play a role in change?
I think that there was a concern. My companies reported to me that customers were calling in…and there wasn't any indication that they were going to change the way they were eating. They weren't going to become vegetarian, they weren't going to stop frequenting the stores, but they did have a concern thatthey wanted to be assured that the animals were being treated humanelythey didn't really want to know about itthey didn't want to know any details, but they didn't want to be seeing these awful pictures in the newspapers and on the billboards and on the sides of busesthat most of us saw in the big cities. So there was some level of concernthat they wanted this issue to go away, and they wanted us to manage it. And that was an impetus to get the companies' attention.