Open Letter to McDonald’s Indonesia
Animal protection NGOs’ request for democratic rights to be respected and for animal welfare to be prioritized
Through this letter, we would like to express our deep feeling of indignation at the statements made by McDonald’s in Indonesia regarding our peaceful protest asking the company to adopt a cage-free egg policy in front of the chain’s restaurant on Monday, February 3rd, in Kemang, South Jakarta.
We are astonished and indignant that the company declares that its animal welfare standards are not lower in Indonesia than in European, Latin, and North American countries. The science of animal welfare for laying-hens is clear: extreme caged confinement systems, such as those prevalent in Indonesia and used by McDonald’s egg suppliers, do not allow animals to move freely and perform their natural behaviors, which causes stress and constant frustration. In addition, cage systems cause painful bone problems such as disuse osteoporosis.
Caged systems are also associated with food safety problems. In 2019, The European Food Safety Authority conducted a study about salmonella contamination in different egg production systems and found a greater probability of contamination on factory farms that confine hens in cages when compared to cage-free production.
Additionally, it is well-known that in farms that do not hold animal welfare and other specific certifications, laying hens can be given antibiotics continuously (1) in low doses to prevent diseases and increase productivity. Currently, around 700,000 people die each year due to drug-resistant food diseases and the irresponsible use of antibiotics; livestock is a major contributor to this problem.
We hope that McDonald’s will be more careful with its statements and understand that as long as a cage-free policy for egg-laying hens is not declared for Indonesia—such as those that already exist for McDonald’s in Europe, North America, and Latin America—it makes no sense to state to consumers and the country’s media that standards are just as high in Indonesia.
We would also like to say that the company sounds intimidating in stating that we are violating copyrights by using the image of the character, Ronald. We would like to clarify that in accordance with Indonesian law (Number 28 of 2014 on Copyrights), the use of third party brands and identities is not an infringement when it is not for profit, commercial use, or economic benefits.
Furthermore, freedom of speech and the intention to protest or criticize are usually considered to be a ‘fair use’ of copyrighted materials. Fair use is recognized by Indonesian law: “Use, retrieval, reproduction, and/or change of works and/or related rights products in whole or substantial part are not regarded as a copyright infringement if the source is mentioned or cited in full for the purpose of: education, research, scientific writing, report writing, writing of critique or review of a problem without prejudicing the reasonable interests of the author or the copyright holder.”
As an NGO, we have the democratic right to criticize McDonald’s, as we have no intention to profit from it or prejudice the company’s interests, and we are not violating any copyrights. Our critique is aimed at asking the company to adopt higher animal welfare standards and its associated gains for food safety. This is in the public interest, which is another very important democratic value. We are nonprofit organizations making a real and valid critique: McDonald’s is excluding Indonesia from its international animal welfare policy. In other words, the company clearly has lower standards of animal welfare in the country compared to other markets.
We hope that McDonald’s respects the freedom of expression and our right to protest, as our movement calls for better animal welfare and food safety standards in Indonesia. We hope that the company respects these democratic values. After all, Indonesia is a democratic country that guarantees and protects freedom of expression.
Finally, we would like to ask: what is more valuable to McDonald’s, its image and copyrights, or respect for the lives of millions of sentient beings who are exploited to produce its products? At present, it seems to us that private and commercial interests predominate. In the future, we hope that ethical values will guide the company and that a cage-free policy will be adopted in Indonesia. Animals and consumers would certainly be grateful.
As always, we remain open to dialogue and face-to-face meetings with the company at its Indonesian headquarters. Unfortunately, we were never given this opportunity for dialogue in Indonesia.