It didn't take
much to break the national chain's will. PETA had threatened to disrupt
the appearance of Jason Alexander (KFC's television pitchman, best known
as George from Seinfeld) in The Producers. Soon, the actor was pulling
a real-life George Costanza: begging KFC to get PETA off his back. (Alexander
and KFC have since parted
company.) Then, when PETA announced plans to picket Bachelder's
own home, it was Munich time.
on the corporate jet and flew to PETA's hometown of Norfolk," PETA's
website crowed, acquiescing to five of PETA's eight demands. According
to the organization's victory report, among other matters, Bachelder
pledged to install cameras in all of KFC's 29 slaughterhouses by the
end of next year, with a plan to audit the tapes monthly. KFC also agreed
1) to ensure that its suppliers would add stimulation devices to the
perches in the chicken sheds; 2) to move quickly to kill chickens in
electric stun baths rather than merely immobilizing them; 3) to implement
humane mechanized chicken-gathering systems; and 4) to provide increased
space for chicken housing. KFC promised to report back to PETA on a
regular basis to verify its compliance.
In return, PETA
didn't have to agree to do much of anything. The anti-KFC campaign would
continue, though with a 60-day suspension. PETA would not picket the
2003 annual shareholder meeting. It agreed to modify its website assertions
about KFC, and suspended "all planned billboards." And it
promised not to undertake further "step-ups" in the anti-KFC
campaign for 60 days meaning that it would be at least 61 days
before protesters returned to picket Bachelder's home.
The promised reforms
may all be fine, appropriate, and humane changes in the raising and
slaughter of chickens. Indeed, it is an important human obligation to
treat food animals properly and to kill them as humanely as is practicable.
But it shouldn't take pressure from fanatics for corporate executives
to do the right thing. Indeed, acting under such pressure merely adds
to the power of animal-rights liberationists, making them an ever-greater
threat to the legitimate use of animals.
If KFC thought
that it had bought peace and security from PETA by so clearly and publicly
caving in to the organization's threats and intimidation, it didn't
know its enemy. I use the word enemy in its literal sense. PETA's goal
is not to reform KFC's practices. It isn't ultimately seeking a universal
standard for humane treatment of chickens by food producers. These goals
are mere tactical efforts on the way to PETA's ultimate goal: driving
KFC and all other meat-serving fast-food restaurants out
Indeed, in a follow-up
five-page "Dear Cheryl" letter, PETA's Newkirk warned darkly
that the Kentucky Fried Cruelty campaign would continue more energetically
than ever unless KFC agreed to the rest of PETA's demands. Not only
that, Newkirk more than hinted that PETA's current demands are merely
the "bare minimums" of what they will ultimately seek from
KFC now that the animal liberationists believe they have gained the
upper hand against the corporation. In a preview of coming attractions,
Newkirk served notice that PETA will one day require that KFC's chickens
be "given sunlight, fresh air, the ability to dust, bathe or raise
their families in other words to be the animals nature intended
them to be" (Emphasis added).
This would mean
nothing less than the end of the chicken-restaurant business. After
all, from PETA's perspective, nature intended chickens to be allowed
to run wild without any interference from people; particular those who
might want to eat them.
What are the unmet
demands that PETA will continue to press? The primary one is that KFC
implement "gas killing" of its chickens.
When I first read
this, I almost spat out my morning coffee. PETA ideologues believe that
killing animals for food is the moral equivalent of genocide. Indeed,
PETA minions have for several months traveled the country promoting
vegetarianism on college campuses in the "Holocaust
on Your Plate" campaign. Holocaust on Your Plate explicitly
equates animal husbandry and meat-eating with the death camps and the
genocide of Jews in the Holocaust. To illustrate its thesis, PETA crassly
juxtaposes photographs of a pile of dead pigs with a pile of the bodies
of dead concentration-camp inmates and claims that "the leather
sofa and handbag are the modern equivalent of the lampshades made from
the skins of the people killed in the death camps."
It must be understood
that PETA-type fanatics do not see Holocaust on Your Plate as hyperbole
or metaphor. For them, it is a literal truth. Down to the bone marrow
in their vegan bones, they believe that KFC's cooking of chickens is
morally equivalent to SS guards' herding of Auschwitz inmates into the
showers. One can only imagine the future potential for demagogic advertisements
should KFC's suppliers begin the gas slaughter of birds.
For anyone with
any knowledge of PETA's tactics and ideology, it is clear that KFC will
find no lasting peace even if it agrees to gas chickens instead of using
other means of slaughter. Even before the moratorium was up, a PETA
activist poured fake blood over David Novak, the CEO of Yum! Brands
(the parent company of KFC) while he was visiting Germany. And now,
with the 60-day ceasefire having passed, PETA has filed a lawsuit in
California superior court seeking an injunction against KFC and Yum
for making "false" statements on its websites about the welfare
of its chickens.
Winning the injunction
may not be the primary point of the lawsuit. In our legal system, litigants
are entitled to search their opponents' files looking for evidence to
prove their claims. Thus, if the court allows the case to proceed to
trial, PETA's lawyers will be allowed to happily rummage through the
corporations' files looking for anything they can use to pursue their
vendetta against the chain. In this sense, the lawsuit could be a win
for PETA regardless of whether the injunction ever issues.
As history so clearly
teaches, appeasement against totalitarians, far from bringing an end
to conflict, results in an ever-escalating set of demands. KFC and other
businesses that use animals must understand that they can never treat
animals humanely enough to satisfy the animal-rights/liberationist absolutists.
Their only hope is to treat their animals humanely before PETA pounds
on the door (it's the right thing to do regardless of the PETA threat)
and then to stand firmly against activists' intimidation whenever and
however it occurs even if it means that their presidents' homes
are picketed, their stockholder meetings disrupted, and their executives'
business suits stained by fake blood and pies in the face.
Pursuing a less
courageous course will bring KFC and other industries peace all right
but it will be the permanent peace of the corporate grave.
Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery
Institute. He is working on books about human cloning and the animal-rights