US: Animal Experts Quit KFC Over Confidentiality Pact

Publisher Name: 
Reuters


Two animal
welfare experts said they resigned as advisors to fast-food chain KFC
after the company asked them to sign an agreement preventing them from
speaking publicly about its policies on such issues as animal slaughter.

Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University and Dr. Ian Duncan of
the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, said they stepped down
from KFC parent Yum Brands Inc.'s animal welfare committee this week
after being sent the agreement, which Grandin said would have required
them to refer all media inquiries to KFC's corporate headquarters.

"I resigned because there is a document that I can't sign," Grandin
said in an interview on Thursday. "I feel very strongly that I can talk
freely to the press about how the program's working, what's been going
on with the program."

Grandin, who has also worked with chains such as McDonald's Corp.,
Wendy's International Inc., and Burger King Corp., said she is used to
preserving confidentiality with respect to suppliers and pricing
information. But, she said, no other company, including KFC, has ever
asked her to sign an agreement asking her to refrain from speaking to
the press.

"Certain things are confidential ... I will not give out pricing
information or information about who is supplying chicken where,"
Grandin said. "That type of confidentiality agreement I sign all the
time."

KFC spokeswoman Bonnie Warschauer said the contract was no different
from previous confidentiality agreements members of the animal welfare
committee, including Grandin and Duncan, have signed.

"It's just the same confidentiality agreement they've always had. We're
just asking everybody to re-sign it," Warschauer said.

She did not specify why the company was asking committee members to
sign the agreement again, and added that she did not know whether other
members of the committee had signed it.

"I don't see why they wouldn't," Warschauer said.

Warschauer said that Grandin, Duncan and another animal welfare expert
gave KFC a list of recommendations on animal welfare in March.
Warschauer said the company has a "plan of action" for each one of the
steps on the list.

Duncan, who along with Grandin has served on the committee for about
three years, said he, too, would have felt curtailed by the agreement.

"The way that I read it, it wouldn't allow me to talk in general terms
about animal welfare," Duncan said in an interview on Wednesday. "If
someone phoned me up and said 'You are on the KFC animal welfare
committee,' I was bound to say 'No comment."'

KFC has been criticized by animal rights activists, who claim the chain
has not done enough to make sure the chickens it uses are cared for and
slaughtered humanely.

Last year, the issue reached a boiling point when a video made public
by animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
(PETA) showed workers at a West Virginia chicken processing plant that
supplies KFC ripping off birds' beaks, spitting tobacco into their
mouths and eyes, and stomping and kicking them.

Duncan said KFC still "has some way to go" in improving its animal welfare standards.

"I've not been happy with the progress that's been made in setting standards," he said.

Grandin agreed that KFC "needs to be strengthening some things," but said the company had made progress.

"Change happens slowly and they have been making some improvements," she said.

A call to KFC for a response to these comments was not immediately returned.

KFC is working on a new agreement with both Grandin and Duncan under
which they would serve as "technical advisors" to the company,
Warschauer said. She said the company would be adding members to its
animal welfare advisory board.

Grandin said the company had contacted her in an effort to work out an
agreement and said she would be willing to continue working with KFC so
long as the confidentiality agreement was scrapped.

AMP Section Name:Food and Agriculture