July 7, 2003
By ELIZABETH BECKER
WASHINGTON, July 6 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said today that it would sue the KFC Corporation in Los Angeles on Monday as part of the group's six-month boycott to seek an improvement in the way 700 million chickens are raised and slaughtered every year for the fast-food giant.
PETA is asking the California Superior Court to issue an injunction against KFC and its parent company, Yum!Brands, to prevent it from making what the animal rights group described as false statements on its Web sites and by its public information officers about the welfare of its chickens.
"It is unlawful to mislead consumers from the truth that if they're buying from the defendants, they're supporting animal abuse," said Matthew Penzer, legal counsel for PETA.
Officials from KFC, formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, created an Animal Welfare Advisory Council to mandate procedures required of people who raise chickens for its restaurants. After KFC officials agreed to several of its demands in May, PETA agreed to suspend its boycott. The group said KFC officials said that farmers would expand the living space for chickens by 30 percent and that the company would put cameras in the slaughterhouses to monitor whether the animals were killed as painlessly as possible.
Company officials were unavailable for comment today, but in a recent press release they defended their treatment of animals.
"As a major purchaser of food products, we have the opportunity, and responsibility, to influence the way animals are treated," the release said. "We take that responsibility very seriously. We only deal with suppliers who maintain the very highest standards and share our commitment to animal welfare."
In its planned lawsuit, PETA said that despite KFC's new guidelines, "the birds raised and killed for the defendants' operations suffer great pain and injuries in massive numbers."
In earlier campaigns, PETA has won concessions from Burger King, McDonald's and Wendy's to improve the welfare of animals. But this campaign comes as fast-food restaurants are under pressure on several fronts.
Some people are trying to sue fast-food restaurants for contributing to their obesity. Environmental groups and food safety advocates are raising questions about farm animals raised in huge, confined feedlots or sheds.