A group of seven students and community members gathered silently outside of McDonald’s on Plymouth Rd. Tuesday in protest against the fast-food chain’s history of cruelty to chickens. The protest was hosted by the University of Michigan’s Michigan Animal Respect Society as part of The Humane League’s Student Alliance for Animals.

This week, The Humane League is holding a national Halloween week of action to put pressure on fast-food chains and other companies to adopt more sustainable and ethical practices. MARS joined student groups across the country in the “I’m Not Lovin’ It” campaign aimed at McDonald’s and the mistreatment of chickens in their supply chain.

Art & Design senior Sam Plouff, president of MARS, helped organize Tuesday’s protest. Plouff said MARS worked in conjunction with The Humane League to urge McDonald’s to implement more ethical animal treatment methods, especially since other fast-food chains have begun to listen to consumer demand on the topic. 

“We’re just looking for (McDonald’s) to improve on their standards, because they are a leader in the food industry and usually things that they improve on are usually pushed in other aspects of the industry,” Plouff said. “They’re actually behind a lot of other big food services right now. Wendy’s, Starbucks, Subway, all of them have adopted better animal welfare standards in the last few years and McDonald’s has really been lagging.”

According to Statista, McDonald’s currently leads in total fast-food sales. In 2018, McDonald’s generated $38.52 billion in sales, while Starbucks, the second most profitable chain in the U.S., made $19.66 billion. Yet McDonald’s has come under frequent criticism for the treatment of animals in their supply chain, especially concerning the housing conditions of their chickens and the slaughtering of their animals. 

Students at the University have been protesting against unethical fast food practices for a number of months. In January, when the renovation of the Michigan Union prompted questions about what restaurants should open in the new space, students led protests against Wendy’s employee labor conditions. Students have also spoken out against Wendy’s unwillingness to sign onto the Fair Food Program. When the Union’s restaurant lineup was announced in mid-October, Wendy’s was not included in the list of companies that will serve students when the Union reopens in January 2020 after the franchise owner declined to renew the lease. 

LSA senior Zina Abourjeily, a member of MARS, said the University’s student organizations can play a large role in the prevention of animal abuse. 

“We tried to leverage MARS members to come out as a way to build community around animal activism and also (show that) we care,” Abourjeily said. 

During the protest, students and community members held signs reading “stop this abuse,” “animals deserve better” and “the sad truth.” 

Trevor Bechtel, a pastor at Shalom Community Church and student engagement coordinator at the Ford School of Public Policy, said he attended the protest because he believes McDonald’s should be meeting much higher standards of ethical food preparation. 

“The protest is about silently opposing how McDonald’s prepares its food — from the fields, to the farm, to the processing, packaging,” Bechtel said. “We can do a lot better than what McDonald’s is doing.”

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