The billionaire activist investor has been pushing the fast-food giant to stop pulling the wool over people’s eyes, and finally deliver on its animal welfare promises.
Carl Icahn, a feared investor and animal welfare advocate has called out McDonald’s leadership for “failing” its investors and misleading the public about its animal welfare practices.
The 86-year-old has written an eight-page open letter, in which he slammed the fast food giant for not honouring its commitment to stop using confining pregnant pigs in cramped spaces.
McDonald’s first agreed in 2012 to do away with gestation crates, a practice which has been heavily criticized by animal welfare campaigners, over a 10-year period.
Icahn’s letter reads: “McDonald’s Board of Directors … is failing shareholders and stakeholders by presiding over animal welfare violations, supply chain laps and what I see as a blank environmental, social and governance (‘ESG’) agenda.
“A company’s reluctance to improve policies and verification methods represents a serious risk for a business, its bottom line and the world around us.”
McDonald’s is ‘condoning cruelty’
Icahn commenting on McDonald’s recent claim that the company expects to source 85% to 90% of its US pork volumes from sows not housed in gestation crates during pregnancy, wrote: “[The] assertion is a cynical fabrication intended to fool us into believing this egregious form of animal abuse in McDonald’s’ supply chain is largely not occurring.
“In reality, these sows, who have multiple litters of piglets each year, are confined in gestation crates during each pregnancy for approximately four to six weeks, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“They will spend these weeks immobilized in tiny crates, not much bigger than their bodies, where they can’t even turn around.”
He continued: “They are patting themselves on the back, while condoning cruelty – apparently, blind to the writing on the wall.
“I believe the obscene cruelty inflicted on these animals through confinement is completely needless, reprehensible and misaligned with what Americans expect from our country’s No. 1 fast-food chain.
“I believe McDonald’s’ customers want food that is sourced ethically, responsibly and humanely. Gestation crates are none of those.”
According to a report by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), pigs relegated to the crates “suffer a number of significant welfare problems, including an elevated risk of urinary tract infections, weakened bones, overgrown hooves” among other issues.
Gestation crates are already banned in at least 10 states, including California, Colorado, and Florida.
Add new board members ‘who have a vision’
Earlier this year, Icahn, who owns just 200 shares in McDonald’s, valued at approximately $50,000, threatened to start off a shareholder fight over the subject. In the letter, he nominated new board members, “who have a vision for helping the board implement a superior ESG agenda with enhanced animal welfare and sustainability policies.”
He addressed McDonald’s shareholders explaining that backing his two directors – Leslie Samuelrich, a sustainability-focused investor and president of Green Century Capital Management, and Maisie Ganzler, an executive at Bon Appétit – would send a message to management teams across the US and the world.
“McDonald’s’ inability to fulfill its 10-year-old promise indicates cracks in the Board’s highly touted ESG efforts,” Icahn wrote.
“The Company must be held accountable to end inhumane animal treatment in its supply chain once and for all.
“To do so, I believe the current Board needs independent individuals who have the skills and experience necessary to improve governance, provide much-needed oversight and drive the Company’s commitments to animal welfare forward.”
McDonald’s released a statement addressing the points raised in Icahn’s letter.
The company said “what Mr. Icahn demanded … is completely unfathomable.” Moreover, switching to a system that would meet the standards that Icahn outlined “would significantly increase the costs, put a burden on all aspects of our business, our supply chain and McDonald’s customers.”
It added: “McDonald’s cares about the health and welfare of the animals in our supply chain and has long led the industry with our animal welfare commitments.
“What Mr. Icahn is demanding from McDonald’s and other companies is completely unfeasible.
“Based on current estimates, McDonald’s would require at least 300-400 times the animals housed today in ‘crate-free’ systems to keep our supply chain running.”
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