Activist Icahn takes on McDonald’s for animal welfare


Activist investor Carl Icahn has launched a highly unusual battle on the McDonald’s board to demand that the fast-food chain end the practice of keeping pregnant piggies in its supply chain confined to small crates.

In a statement on Sunday, McDonald’s said Mr. Icahn had appointed two directors as part of a campaign related to “a narrow issue regarding the company’s pork processing.” Mr. Icahn called on McDonald’s to require all of its U.S. pork suppliers to have “crateless” pigs and to set specific deadlines.

McDonald’s committed in 2012 to phase out the use of gestation stalls for pregnant sows in its U.S. pork supply chain within 10 years. By the end of 2022, the company plans to source 85-90% of its U.S. pork from sows no longer confined to gestation crates, and completely eliminate that supply from by the end of 2024, the fast food chain announced on Sunday.

But the Humane Society of the United States, a nonprofit animal rights group, questioned the company’s commitment. In a shareholder proposal filed in November, the group said it appeared McDonald’s was planning to reduce the length of time it let suppliers lock pregnant sows in stalls, rather than ending the practice altogether.

Gestation crates

“McDonald’s in 2012, together with Carl Icahn and the Humane Society of the United States, made a commitment to eliminate gestation crates,” said Josh Balk, vice president of farm animal welfare at the Humane Society. . “Instead, they are allowing pork producers to continue to confine pregnant pigs for six of the 16 weeks of their pregnancy.”

“[McDonald’s] pledged to get rid of the practice, not yet allowing six of the 16 weeks to remain confined. We are talking about a month and a half of each pregnancy cycle that can never turn around.

Mr. Balk said he had been “friendly” with Mr. Icahn for more than a decade.

“He is absolutely – in essence – someone who will fight to prevent cruelty to animals,” Mr Balk said. Over the past few weeks, Mr. Icahn has again become embroiled in the gestation crate issue with McDonald’s and decided to start the proxy battle, he said.

McDonald’s said Sunday it disagreed with the Humane Society’s characterization of “our industry-leading commitment” from 2012.

A spokesperson for Mr. Icahn did not immediately comment on Sunday. Speaking on Bloomberg TV last week, Mr Icahn said he was about to start the fight against McDonald’s board. “We’re not going to have fun with them anymore,” he said.


McDonald’s hit back, criticizing Mr Icahn for owning a company – Illinois-based Viskase – that produces and supplies pork and poultry wraps.

“It should be noted that Mr. Icahn has not publicly asked Viskase to adopt the commitments” that McDonald’s has adopted for its pork supply, the company said.

McDonald’s said it would be “impossible” to meet Mr Icahn’s request. The change would go against “veterinary science” and “harm the company’s shared pursuit of providing customers with quality products at accessible prices,” he said.

Mr. Icahn named Leslie Samuelrich, president of Green Century Capital Management, a climate-conscious asset manager, and Maisie Ganzler, chief strategy officer at Bon Appétit Management Company, a restaurant business that offers catering services.

Mr. Icahn said he owned 200 shares of McDonald’s, the company said. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022


Comments are closed.