by Naomi Goddard

Photo Credit: Naomi Goddard

ANIMAL RIGHTS activists took to the streets earlier this week calling for Burger King to stop sourcing eggs from hens kept in cages.

The Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST) gathered on Wednesday, October 28th, outside a Burger King store in Taipei to issue an invitation to the fast-food chain to join the cage-free movement.

Photo credit: Naomi Goddard

The protestors stood outside the NTNU Burger King store dressed in chicken outfits,  holding placards, and danced to the tune of the Super Mario Bros theme song.

“This is the perfect opportunity for Burger King to outdo McDonald’s and show consumers its commitment to socially responsible business.”  Fang Chu Chune, EAST’s campaign researcher shouted out to the public on the megaphone. “We hope Burger King takes this opportunity to outdo its longtime rival McDonald’s, who has steadfastly refused to make a cage-free commitment in Taiwan.”

The action was followed by Burger King’s store manager greeting the activists outside the store, handing the Deputy Chief Executive of EAST, Chen Yu-Min a document reading that Burger King will take the cage-free invitation into consideration. Declaring a willingness to support the chain through its transition, Chen remarked, “We invite Burger King to demonstrate the young, rebellious spirit encapsulated by its brand worldwide, and lead the charge towards a future free of cages.”

Photo credit: Naomi Goddard

To complete the action, the hens strutted inside the Burger King to each order an Americano and sit amongst the fast-food chain’s customers, placing their placards on the wall to display their messages.

EAST’s action is part of an international campaign calling on Burger King’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International, to issue a global cage-free policy.

Across the world, billions of chickens are living behind bars, in cramped, unhygienic, and unnatural conditions for their entire lives. Cages confine and restrict, resulting in the birds being unable to turn around to groom themselves, to spread their wings, or sleep in a comfortable position.

Photo credit: Naomi Goddard

With the birds packed in cages so tight, their body parts often become damaged and deformed. By living in painful and stressful conditions, the bird’s immune system weakens, making the intense crowding and dirty conditions, an environment perfect for fostering and spreading disease.

The international caged-egg campaign led by the Open Wing Alliance calls for companies to commit to a global cage-free policy. This means asking businesses to switch their supply chain to cage-free farming, which typically means barn or free range systems. In cage-free farms chickens can walk around, spread their wings and lay eggs in nests. Not only is this healthier for the animals’ welfare but it is also safer for people consuming the eggs, as this decreases the chances of the eggs carrying bacteria that make people sick.

So far there are 84 animal groups across the world who have joined the cage-free campaign. As governments, companies and consumers become aware of  these cruel and dangerous conditions for animals, globally hundreds of businesses have announced a commitment to transition and to eliminate caged eggs from their supply chains.

Photo credit: Naomi Goddard

Carrefour Taiwan became the first retailer in Asia to release a cage-free commitment, aiming to go completely cage-free by 2025 and already seeing an increase to 17% in their stores with customers purchasing cage-free products. Subway has also pledged similarly, with plans to switch more than 1,000 restaurants to cage-free across Asia in the next 5 years.

However, Burger King’s commitment currently falls short in Asia. To date, the fast-food chain has committed to stop sourcing caged-eggs in their North and Latin American branches, and completed the transition in  Australia and New Zealand. Yet they still have a long way to go to ensure that their Asian market isn’t eating eggs from hens kept in cages. Tony Huang, General Manager of Burger King in Taiwan, previously stated that it is “Absolutely the social responsibility of companies to provide safe and healthy food for consumers”. But still, the Taiwan market is waiting for a policy that includes Taiwan’s franchises in the elimination of using caged-eggs.

Photo credit: Naomi Goddard

With cage-free production on the rise in Taiwan, EAST and other animal welfare groups are hoping to raise awareness not only to companies but also drive consumers to demand cage-free eggs.

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