Atlanta-based Popeyes under fire from animal welfare group


An animal welfare group plans a silent demonstration at three area restaurants Saturday to lobby for changes in Popeyes’ policies toward treatment of animals.

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Compassion in World Farming expects to have about 20 protesters who will carry signs and pass out leaflets on the sidewalk, but will not obstruct passers-by or customers of the restaurant, said Katya Simkhovich, the organization’s food business coordinator.

The group wants Popeyes to adopt a policy requiring better treatment of animals, especially the chickens that are raised to be slaughtered and sold to the restaurant.

“Typically, we try to talk to people in board rooms or offices, but Popeyes has been unresponsive and has refused to engage in dialogue,” Simkhovich said. “We did try repeatedly to contact them.”

Founded in Great Britain in the late 1960s, Compassion in World Farming has its U.S. headquarters in Decatur. 

Attempts to reach Atlanta-based Popeyes and its parent company were unsuccessful. 

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The company, which has about 2,600 restaurants globally, did not respond to emails. A phone call to the company’s communications office was transferred to a recording which said the office does not accept voice messages. Emails to the parent company, were also not returned.

Restaurant Brands International, which bought Popeyes last March, also owns Burger King and Tim Hortons. 

That parent company did accept a more animal-protective policy before buying Popeyes, but since  the acquisition, Popeyes has not adopted that stance, Simkhovich said.  

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Compassion in World Farming does not take a vegan or anti-meat stance. But the group believes that the treatment of chickens is often cruel, she said.

Chickens, which have been bred to please the market, are overfed and kept in badly lighted, overly crowded conditions. Moreover, they are often upside down, in pain and in terror, in the moments before they are killed, she said. 

“We are asking for really marginal improvement,” she said.

The animal welfare group has collected more than 151,000 signatures for an online petition arguing for Popeyes to change its policy. Activists plan to deliver the petition to Popeyes corporate office in College Park on Tuesday, Simkhovich said.

And while Popeyes is primarily a network of locally-owned franchises, similar corporate arrangements have not prevented many other companies from adopting higher standards, she said. “It hasn’t stopped other companies from making commitments to animal welfare.”

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Among those with higher requirements for the treatment of animals they depend on for food are Subway, Panera Bread, Sonic Drive-In and Starbucks, she said.

During the afternoon, the animal welfare group plans to demonstrate at a Popeyes restaurant on Memorial Drive in Decatur, then restaurants on Moreland Ave and Boulevard in Atlanta.

If Popeyes does not respond, the group will continue to lobby for change, Simkhovich said. “We will keep trying. We don’t give up.”

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AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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