Activist company

McDonald’s billionaire investor blasts company for using cruel gestation crates for pregnant pigs

Billionaire investor and activist Carl Icahn has slammed McDonald’s for continuing to use cruel pregnancy gates for pregnant pigs, despite previous promises to phase them out by 2022.

Icahn, 86, wrote an eight-page letter to McDonald’s shareholders, which he released on Thursday, saying the fast-food giant had failed to meet its 10-year pledge to end the use of crates, which keep pregnant sluts cramped. the spaces.

The company first agreed to scrap the practice in 2012 amid widespread criticism over the use of such inhumane devices. But Icahn – a shareholder – says the company has failed and now hopes to embarrass her into taking action.

“This grotesque mistreatment of animals – and the company’s failure to make meaningful progress on promises made to multiple stakeholders in 2012 – clearly stems from dysfunction and indifference in the McDonald’s boardroom. “wrote Icahn, who owns 200 shares of the company.

“I believe McDonald’s customers want food that is ethically, responsibly and humanely sourced.” Gestation crates are none of that.

Proponents say the crates prevent sows from fighting during pregnancy and keep them safe. But opponents say they are profoundly inhumane, even preventing pigs from turning around and further distressing them by preventing them from seeing their piglets.

McDonald’s blasted the letter in its own statement, writing that the definition of “cashless” is too specific and would create unmanageable supply chain issues for the fast-food giant.

“The definition of crate-less, cited by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), is so obscure that it represents an extremely niche market comprising less than 0.1% of US pork production. This presents a supply challenge,” the company wrote.

“What Mr. Icahn is asking McDonald’s and other companies is totally unachievable. Current estimates suggest that McDonald’s would need at least 300 to 400 times the number of animals housed in “crateless” systems today to keep our supply chain functioning. It also presents a cost challenge. McDonald’s is today paying a premium to buy group-housed pork in line with our 2012 commitment.’

Gestation crates, pictured, which have been used by McDonald’s despite the company’s decades-long vow to end the practice this year

Billionaire investor and activist Carl Icahn, pictured, is worth around $16.5 billion

Billionaire investor and activist Carl Icahn, pictured, is worth around $16.5 billion

Icahn, a staunch supporter of animal welfare, remained one of the most vocal critics. The former stockbroker – worth an estimated $16.4 billion – threatened to kick off a shareholder battle over the practice in February when he nominated two people in the board elections administration of McDonald’s.

“They praise each other, while tolerating cruelty — seemingly blind to the handwriting on the wall,” Icahn wrote.

“I believe the obscene cruelty inflicted on these animals through lockdown is utterly unnecessary, reprehensible, and out of step with what Americans expect from our nation’s #1 fast food chain.”

Icahn also criticized a “slew of Wall Street corporations and their bankers and lawyers,” “Big Meat,” and the meat industry’s “connected lobby,” calling their environmental and social efforts “hollow.”

But McDonalds pointed out the “hypocrisy” of Icahn’s statements, given his stake in another pork producer they say didn’t follow his favorite “no crate” rules.

“In addition to the financial burden this would place on customers, Mr. Icahn also failed to address the inherent hypocrisy of his campaign,” McDonald’s said.

‘M. Icahn is the majority owner of Viskase, a company that produces and supplies packaging for the pork and poultry industry. Viskase does not have public commitments similar to those championed by McDonald’s in 2012 and does not limit its activities to meat producers who raise their animals in the “crateless” housing systems adopted by HSUS. ‘

McDonald's first agreed to scrap the practice in 2012 amid widespread criticism of the use of such inhumane devices

McDonald’s first agreed to scrap the practice in 2012 amid widespread criticism of the use of such inhumane devices

Icahn’s letter added that McDonald’s is “misleading customers, employees and shareholders” after promising it would “source 85-90% ‘of its American pork’ from sows not housed in gestation crates. during pregnancy”.

“But this claim is a cynical fabrication intended to trick us into believing that this egregious form of animal abuse in McDonald’s supply chain is largely not happening,” Icahn wrote.

“In reality, these sows, which have multiple litters of piglets each year, are confined to gestation crates during each gestation for about four to six weeks, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

The billionaire demanded that McDonald’s add new directors to its board, while calling on the company to “commit to eliminating gestation crates from its supply chain by the end of 2023” and to apply the same approach to its “global supply chain by 2024”.

Icahn, pictured, first became aware of the practice through his daughter Michelle, a vegetarian who worked with the Humane Society

Icahn, pictured, first became aware of the practice through his daughter Michelle, a vegetarian who worked with the Humane Society

During this time, the pig industry championed the use of gestation crates as a means of increasing productivity and preventing pigs from fighting, however animal welfare activists disagree.

In a 2013 report, the Humane Society of the United States said such crates have a “psychological impact and are detrimental” to the welfare of pigs.

Late last month, Icahn expanded its animal welfare campaign to include the nation’s largest supermarket chain, Kroger, filing a similar complaint about their use of gestation crates in their pork production, CNBC reported. in March.

He first became aware of the practice through his daughter Michelle, a vegetarian who worked with the Humane Society.

The financier is worth around $16.5 billion, according to Forbes.

McDonald’s blasts Carl Icahn’s ‘hypocritical’ statement about the fast food giant’s use of gestation cages for pregnant pigs

McDonald’s cares about the health and welfare of animals in our supply chain and has long led the industry with its animal welfare commitments. Our pioneering 2012 commitment to group housing for pregnant sows was shaped with input from industry experts and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians. This has led to a sea change in the industry, with a commonly adopted approach to group housing.

McDonald’s supplies only about 1% of pork production in the United States and does not own any sows or produce or package pork. Despite McDonald’s progress on our commitment to source from producers who do not use gestation crates for pregnant sows, Mr. Icahn has requested new commitments. These include requiring all U.S. McDonald’s pork suppliers to switch to “crateless” pork and setting specific deadlines for doing so.

The definition of crateless, cited by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), is so obscure that it represents an extremely niche market comprising less than 0.1% of US pork production. This presents a supply challenge. What Mr. Icahn is asking McDonald’s and other companies is totally unachievable. Current estimates suggest that McDonald’s would need at least 300 to 400 times the number of animals housed in “crateless” systems today to keep our supply chain functioning. It also presents a cost challenge. McDonald’s is today paying a premium for buying group-housed pork in line with our 2012 commitment. Sourcing from this niche market, as Mr. Icahn suggests, his director candidates – Maisie Ganzler and Leslie Samuelrich – and HSUS, would significantly increase these costs, placing a burden on all aspects of our business, our supply chain and McDonald’s customers, while lacking the broad support of industry experts.

Mr Icahn says McDonald’s customers “want food that is ethically, responsibly and humanely sourced”. We agree and take our role in this regard seriously. Value and affordability are also important, especially as customers face increasing costs in all aspects of daily life. Without broad support from industry experts, his campaign would have one sure result: a heavier financial burden on customers.

In addition to the financial burden it would place on clients, Mr. Icahn also failed to address the inherent hypocrisy of his campaign. Mr. Icahn is the majority owner of Viskase, a company that produces and supplies packaging for the pork and poultry industry. Viskase does not have public commitments similar to those championed by McDonald’s in 2012 and does not limit its activities to meat producers who raise their animals in the “crateless” housing systems adopted by HSUS.

As we shared in our 2022 proxy statement, under the leadership of the current Board of Directors, McDonald’s has led the industry not only on animal welfare, but also on the most pressing ESG issues. Mr. Icahn nominated two candidates to stand for election at McDonald’s 2022 annual meeting and made it clear that his nomination was tied to the very narrow issue of his campaign.

In doing so, Mr. Icahn would seek to remove valuable directors with strong track records from the McDonald’s board and replace them with single-platform candidates who not only lack experience on a board of directors. public company directors, but also the expertise and qualifications necessary to add significant value to the majority of issues regularly faced by McDonald’s Board of Directors. McDonald’s shareholders deserve better.

Source: McDonald’s Corp.