Animal Protection > Worldwide Actions > New Zealand


McDonalds is repeatedly targetted by animal rights activists. And for very good reason. The company is the single largest user of beef in the world and the second largest user of chicken. McDonald’s meat, fish, egg and dairy products all come from cruel and unsustainable sources. Animal welfare is chucked out the window in the relentless pursuit of lower costs and higher profits.

McDonalds purchases a huge amount of beef and are proud of the fact they source all their beef from local producers. Extensive cattle farming for meat and dairy along with sheep farming is an environmental disaster on the local and regional scales and is responsible for 90% of the country’s methane emissions, a large proportion of New Zealand’s contribution to global warming. Male cattle suffer castration and usually a life of isolation from the rest of the herd. Many animals are conscious when their throat is slit due to inadequate stunning.

Dairy farming entails forced pregnancy, constant milking and the slaughter of calves. Cows suffer from udder problems and diseases such as mastitis as a direct result of being milked twice a day, 10 months of the year. In New Zealand, one and a half million calves are slaughtered in abattoirs every year, unwanted by the dairy industry.

McDonalds sources 100% of their pork, chicken and eggs from factory farms in New Zealand. Piglets are castrated with no anaesthetic at a few days old and live their lives packed in sheds with no chance to express natural behaviours such as digging and nesting. Tail docking is routine to prevent the pigs from biting each other’s tails in frustration. Pregnant pigs are confined to sow stalls, with not even enough room to turn around. The sows are supplied no bedding and are often seen biting the bars of the stall or swaying repetitively.

McDonalds is supplied with chickens raised intensively in the Auckland and Northern region. Chickens raised for meat are known as broilers and are raised in sheds containing as many as 45,000 birds. They grow unnaturally fast due to selective breeding and anti-biotics pumped into their food. Chickens have a natural lifespan of 10-15 years but broilers are decapitated at 6-7 weeks. Even if rescued, a broiler chicken will be lucky to live a year because they have been bred for their meat so their muscle tissue grows at a much greater rate than their skeleton and internal organs.

The plight of battery hens is well-known but McDonalds continues to source all their eggs from Mainland Poultry, the largest hen abusers in the land. On Mainland farms in Auckland and Dunedin, hens are confined to cages giving each bird about an A4 piece of paper of personal space. The birds suffer broken bones, feather loss and skin abrasions because of a lifetime confined to a tiny wire cage. Their beaks are seared off with a hot blade to prevent them pecking at each other from stress and many hens develop osteoporosis because they are artificially pushed to produce many more eggs than in natural conditions.

Less well known than McDonalds abuse of land-based animals is their continued destruction of the ocean and its inhabitants. Each year in New Zealand, 300 tonnes of Hoki is used in McDonald’s filet-o-fish burgers. McDonalds sources their Hoki from Talley’s Fisheries, the largest privately owned fishing company in the country. Forest and Bird NZ ranks New Zealand Hoki fisheries in the ‘Worst choice’ category of their recently released ‘best fish guide’, and for good reason. Hoki is on the decline around New Zealand because of unsustainable over-fishing, including bottom-trawling. The bycatch includes a staggering array of species, with threatened and endangered species such as NZ fur seals, black-browed and Buller's albatross and white-chinned petrel all drowning in Hoki fishing nets.

A wide range of actions against McDonalds have occurred in this country, involving both legal and illegal tactics. Protests are held every 16th October across the country to co-incide with world anti-McDonalds day. These usually have an educational focus and involve the usual leafletting and chanting. The protests around the day are often notable for the diverse range of issues and groups represented.

Some people, however, have chosen a more direct method of hitting McDonalds where it hurts, in the pocket. The first known Animal Liberation Front action against McDonalds in this country was in 1988 when a McDonalds in Dunedin had its locks glued. The same month, the McDonalds Greenlane locks were superglued and many other actions have followed since. These usually involve spraypainting, stinkbombs, gluing locks and smashing windows at different outlets but McDonalds HQ has also been targetted, with 6 windows being smashed in 1989. Actions have been reported in Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Not a single activist has been arrested for ALF actions against McDonalds.

The last few years have seen McDonalds pull out of countries for the first time. Profits aren’t what they used to be. General public awareness of issues relating to McDonalds is increasing due to things like the McLibel case, Supersize Me and the rise of anti-corporate sentiment. It is important that the exploitation of animals is not marginalised amongst the wide range of worthy reasons to attack McDonalds. The sheer quantity of McDonald’s products entails institutionalised animal abuse. Their suffering is immense, and our response must be appropriate.