In the slaughterhouses of McDonald's U.S. and Canadian chicken suppliers, birds are dumped out of their transport crates and hung upside down in metal shackles, which can result in broken bones, extreme bruising, and hemorrhaging. Workers have the opportunity to abuse live birds, and birds have their throats cut while they are still conscious. Many birds are immersed in tanks of scalding-hot water while they are still alive and able to feel pain.
In 2000, following the launch of PETA's (original) McCruelty campaign, McDonald's made some basic animal welfare improvements. Since that time, the company has refused to eliminate the worst abuses that its chickens suffer, including abuses during slaughter. This cruelty could be illegal if dogs or cats—or even pigs or cows—were the victims.
There is a less cruel method of slaughter available today that would eliminate these abuses, yet McDonald's refuses to require its U.S. and Canadian suppliers to switch to it.
- 1997: Following the McLibel verdict, PETA writes to McDonald's asking the company to take steps to alleviate the suffering of animals killed for its restaurants.
- October 1999: PETA launches its McCruelty campaign after two years of failed negotiations with McDonald's.
- September 2000: Following 11 months of campaigning and more than 400 demonstrations against McDonald's, PETA announces a moratorium on its campaign after the company agrees to make some positive changes for farmed animals. This marks the first time in U.S. history that a major seller of meat agrees to make farmed-animal welfare improvements.
- September 2000 to February 2009: PETA tries to work with McDonald's to modernize the company's animal welfare standards and make further improvements, especially regarding how its chickens are slaughtered in the U.S., but McDonald's refuses.
- February 2009: PETA lifts its moratorium against McDonald's after the company fails to require its U.S. and Canadian chicken suppliers to adopt a less cruel slaughter method.