Activist investorCarl Icahn has launched a highly unusual board fight at McDonald’s to demand changes to the way its suppliers treat pigs. In a statement on Sunday,McDonald’s said Icahn had nominated two board directors as part of a campaign related to “a narrow issue regarding the company’s pork” processing. Icahn has asked McDonald’s to require that all its US pork suppliers end the practice of keeping pregnant pigs confined in small crates.
The company pledged in 2012 to phase out the use of what are known as “gestation stalls”for pregnant sows in its US pork supply chain in 10 years. It said on Sunday that by the end of 2022, it expected to source 85 to 90 per cent of its US pork from sows no longer confined to stalls, and to completely eliminate the practice from its supply chain by the end of 2024.
But the HumaneSociety of the United States, an animal rights charity, has questioned the company’s commitment. In a shareholder proposal filed in November, the group said it appeared McDonald’s was planning to reduce how long it let suppliers lock pregnant sows in stalls, rather than end the practice entirely.
Josh Balk, vice-president of farm animal protection at the society said: “McDonald’s in2012, in working with Carl Icahn and the Humane Society of the US, pledged to eliminate gestation crates . . . Instead, they are allowing pork producers to still confine pregnant pigs for six of the 16 weeks of their pregnancy.”
He added:“[McDonald’s] pledged to get rid of the practice, not still allow six of the 16weeks to still be confined. We are talking about a month and a half of each. pregnancy cycle never being able to turn around.” Balk said he had known Icahn for more than a decade. “He is absolutely — to his core — someone who will fight to prevent cruelty to animals.”