NORFOLK, Va. – The animal-rights activists who once suggested Ronald McDonald was a bloody butcher are going after Colonel Sanders, contending cruelty is the "secret recipe" for KFC's fried chicken.
Starting next month, Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (search) plans to hand out "Buckets of Blood" to children outside KFC restaurants (search) and at schools near the restaurants. The buckets are part of PETA's campaign against what it says are farming and slaughter abuses by KFC's suppliers.
The 5-inch-tall, red-and-white striped containers mimic KFC's buckets. But instead of fried chicken, each is filled with items including a bag of fake blood and bones, a bloodied plastic chicken and a cardboard caricature of a blood-spattered Colonel Sanders (search) holding a butcher knife toward a terrified-looking chicken.
Labels on the bucket proclaim, "Shhh! The 'secret recipe' in this bucket of body parts is ... cruelty" and "The Colonel's secret recipe: live scalding, painful debeaking, crippled chickens."
KFC spokeswoman Bonnie Warschauer initially said, "We don't comment on the corporate terrorist activities of PETA. They are corporate terrorists and just like the United States government, we will not negotiate with corporate terrorists."
Warschauer added that "PETA has totally crossed the line of free speech and acceptable behavior" and "all they want is a vegetarian world."
"They misrepresent the truth about our responsible, industry-leading animal welfare standards," she said. "We're committed to the humane treatment of chickens."
KFC, part of Louisville, Ky.-based Yum! Brands Inc., (YUM) has an animal welfare advisory council made up of highly regarded experts, Warschauer said. She added that while the company does not own chicken farms, it monitors suppliers to determine whether they are using humane procedures.
PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich said the campaign is "about getting KFC to stop supporting abuse of chickens that shocks the conscience of any kind person."
A label on the bucket says "Just for you, KFC's suppliers cram thousands of chickens into filthy sheds, sear baby chicks' beaks off with a hot wire, slam the birds into crates (breaking their wings and legs), slice their throats open and scald them to death while they're still conscious. Enjoy."
The buckets are reminiscent of the "Unhappy Meals" PETA began distributing in 2000 as part of a public relations assault against McDonald's. The boxes, similar to the Happy Meals that McDonald's (MCD) serves to children, contained a stuffed doll that looked like Ronald McDonald holding a bloody butcher's knife.
PETA suspended its campaign against McDonald's in response to an announcement by the fast-food chain that it would improve living conditions for its chickens. McDonald's officials said PETA had nothing to do with its initiative.
PETA plans to begin handing out the buckets on the West Coast and in the Midwest in mid- to late April, then branch out from there, Friedrich said. PETA eventually will have people distributing the buckets all over North America as well as in Australia, India, the United Kingdom and South Africa, he said.