A young Durbanville woman has launched a campaign against a global take-away giant to force it to be a little kinder to the chickens that lay eggs for its meals.
Yolanda Guse, 23, has started an online petition to get McDonald’s South Africa to follow its international counterparts in adopting a cage-free policy for its supply chain within the country.
Ms Guse, is a member of Beauty Without Cruelty South Africa, an animal rights organisation that urges the public to reject activities that are cruel to animals. She is doing her Master’s in public relations at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I had chickens as pets, and up until today I only eat the eggs they produce.
“My beloved hens are smart and witty, and enjoy each day roaming in the sun in our big backyard. The idea of them stuffed in a wired cage, enduring the pain and strain of factory farming, haunts my soul,” said Ms Guse.
She said a battery cage was a wire box about the size of a toaster, in which the hens laid eggs for human consumption.
“These hens have no space to do any ordinary chicken activities, such as spreading their wings, nesting, walking or perching,” Ms Guse said. She started the petition with a single signature. Now she has almost 17 000.
McDonald’s, however, has yet to throw in the towel. Sechaba Motsieloa, corporate affairs director for McDonald’s SA, told Northern News: “We are currently exploring the viability of expanding McDonald’s cage-free policy to South Africa, and we will complete our investigation within a year.”
Ms Guse says she is a big fan of McDonald’s fast food, and although she misses their “greasy goodness”, she refuses to support a brand that inflicts such cruelty on animals.
“Battery cage farms are a living hell for the innocent hens that lay eggs for McDonald’s. All this suffering for a mere R10 meal?”
In September 2015, McDonald’s publicly committed to phasing out battery cages from its supply chain in Canada and America within 10 years, following previous animal welfare commitments at its supply chains in Europe, North America, and South America.
Three local animal rights groups, Beauty Without Cruelty South Africa, United Front 4 Animals (UFA) and South African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) wrote to McDonald’s South Africa CEO Greg Solomon and Mr Motsieloa, to address the company’s continued use of caged eggs in February.
They received the same response from the company: “McDonald’s South Africa takes note of the moves made by their USA and Canadian counterparts, and though we are exploring the viability of expanding McDonald’s cage-free policy to South Africa, we cannot at this stage, make a similar commitment.”
Ms Guse is disappointed with the company’s statement.
“Across the globe, including in South Africa, restaurants and supermarkets are moving away from eggs produced by hens confined to cages, proving that cage-free is both viable for businesses and better for the animals,” she said.
Mr Motsieloa said the company sourced its eggs directly from farms and suppliers that met its quality and food safety standards.
“Our customers can enjoy our egg offerings at all of our restaurants in South Africa confident that they meet the highest standards of safety.”
SAFCEI spokesman Frank Molteno said battery cages are cruel and cause extreme pain, distress and discomfort to chickens.
“We’re all creatures of God and find it intolerable that our fellow living beings are subjected to the conditions that factory-farmed hens are forced to suffer.
“We call on McDonald’s to stop supporting the torture of millions of egg-laying hens in South Africa and to commit to adopting a cage-free policy.”
SAFCEI is a multi-faith organisation that works with faith leaders and communities to increase awareness of eco-justice, compassionate and sustainable living and climate change.
Ms Guse and her family have been farming chickens since she was four. They currently have 15 big chickens and several little chicks. “Our chickens are very intelligent, we give them names and they are part of our family.”
She hopes that McDonald’s will commit to adopting the cage-free policy, inspiring other franchises to do the same.