KFC’s tainted legacy of rainforest destruction, animal cruelty

Consumers of Kentucky Fried Chicken food may care to know their meal is being served with a side of cruelty. The fast food giant benefits both from the destruction of Indonesian rainforests, and from the suffering of chickens in torturous factory farms. Activists continue to expose these facts, and to encourage others to fight back.

Rainforest depletion

KFC’s supplier, Asia Pulp & Paper, gets the material to make the restaurant’s packaging products straight from the rainforests of Indonesia, which are being needlessly depleted and destroyed – and which, in turn, threatens the natural habitat of the endangered Sumatran tiger.

On August 8, the situation came to a head when Greenpeace activists surrounded the KFC headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky and draped a giant banner over the building’s front pillar. The banner was emblazoned with a Sumatran tiger, to which it gave a voice with the text “KFC, Stop Trashing My Home.”

Given the intense reaction, Asia Pulp & Paper reportedly hit the PR ‘panic button’ and invited journalists to a meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, where it announced it was pursuing the launch of what would become its “greatest commitment to natural forest protection.” The company’s supposed solution was a little vague; they stated they would “suspend natural forest clearance” in areas “owned” by the company.

But while APP tries to claim it is turning over a new leaf, many environmentalists believe the company is, quite the contrary, simply going to keep turning over more trees.

Activists will remember that APP made a similar claim in 2006, when it announced its Sustainable Forest Management Program, which would commit to preserving endangered forest areas and preserve endangered life “for future generations.”

Six years later, APP’s decimation of rainforests – and the species they protect – for KFC has suggested that their newest claim of “reform” might be just another sham.

Chicken torture

As shareholders of Yum! Brands stock, the parent company of KFC, PETA can attend the company’s annual meeting, which they did last month. While there, PETA implored KFC to adopt the proposed animal welfare program developed by members of its own animal welfare board. Those members are generally considered to be the world’s top poultry experts, and their concerns, PETA said, ought to be recognized.

Chickens used to supply KFC spend their entire lives mired in their own waste in cramped, filthy factory farm sheds. They are later hung upside-down and often sustain broken wings and legs. After that, they are usually burned to death in boiling slaughterhouse “de-feathering tanks.”

But after KFC refused to move on a single one of its animal welfare board’s points, five members resigned. One of those former board members, Adele Douglass, said that KFC “never had any meetings. They never asked for any advice, and then they touted to the press that they had this ‘animal welfare advisory committee.’ I felt like I was being used.”

Chickens, unfortunately, are not protected by the federal Animal Welfare Act, according to PETA. Nor do they fall under the protection of the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. That means KFC suppliers can continue to employ inhumane practices without fear of criminal prosecution.

Dr. Ian Duncan, another ex-member (and North America’s leading expert on bird welfare), added, “Progress was extremely slow, which is why I resigned. It was always going to be ‘happening later.’ They just put off actually creating standards. I suspect that upper management didn’t really think that animal welfare was an important issue.”

Photo: PETA protesters in Bangkok, Thailand raise awareness about the cruel treatment of chickens. Sakchai Lalit/AP


Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is a writer and production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the PW home page. He has earned awards from the IWPA and ILCA, and his articles have also appeared in publications such as Workday Minnesota, EcoWatch, and Earth First News. He has covered issues including the 2010 BP oil spill in New Orleans and the 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris.

He lives in Illinois and frequently visits Europe. He likes cats, wine, books, and nature. In his spare time, he operates a music reaction channel on YouTube, creates artwork, and is writing a fantasy novel.