By Julia Simon
April 3, 2017
Locally founded and headquartered Bojangles’ (Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits) is a secret fast food splurge for many in the region. Nevermind getting into a pal’s car to find Bo-Round boxes underfoot, but at birthday parties, tailgating events, and even on the buffet at a well-to-do weddings, you can often catch that yellow and red logo gracing a greasy box or cup. Since the company went public almost two years ago, they’ve been expanding, bringing Southern classics and Bojangles’ “one-of-a-kind flavors” to most of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky and beyond. They’ve started to push into Northeast markets too, bringing fried chicken to cities enamored with Southern homestyle foods. But as we know, growth is often the enemy of quality, especially when it comes to food. And when it comes to fast food, the supply chain can get unappetizing pretty quickly.
Broiler chickens, or chickens raised for meat (as opposed to eggs) account for 88% of the meat consumed in the United States every year. 88%. That’s a startling statistic, but give it some thought and it makes sense, poultry is America’s default protein. Fast food chains (like Bojangles’) go through literal tons of chicken each week under the market’s constant pressure to keep costs low. But when you buy cheap, whether it be food, clothing, or household staples, someone in the supply chain is paying instead of you. And when you’re talking about the meat getting “hand breaded and fried” at your local Bojangles’, it’s the chickens that are paying, in surprisingly grotesque ways.
Chickens bred for slaughter live an average of 7 weeks, virtually all of that stretch crammed into dark, packed warehouses so full of ammonia from their own waste that their chests and legs are often burnt and bare. When it’s time to “transition” these birds, they’re packed into crates, wings and legs crammed or broken to fit, and driven to the slaughterhouse, where they’re dangled from hooks and plunged neck deep into an electrified water bath to stun them. Then there’s the flash of a knife as their throats are cut, and they spend their last hours hanging upside down while bleeding out, in pain for (in some cases) the entirety of the process.
The Humane League knows there’s a better, more compassionate way to treat these animals, and are asking Bojangles’ to step up their game. On Tuesday, they’re staging a silent protest outside Bojangles’ Coliseum in east Charlotte to ramp up their campaign, named “88 Percent” after the surprising statistic above. We sat down with Maddie Segal, Charlotte Director of The Humane League, to get the scoop on the protest and hear what this new campaign is all about.
CLTure: Tell us a little bit about the Humane League and your role there.
Maddie Segal: The Humane League is an international farm animal protection organization and I am the Charlotte Director of The Humane League. We work to improve the lives of farm animals and we specifically work to improve the lives of factory farmed animals because 99% of all animals raised for human consumption are factory farmed. We’re talking about billions of animals that suffer immensely on these factory farms, every single year. That’s why we focus on factory farming in our campaigns – it’s where we can reduce suffering for the largest amount of animals.
CLTure: What are people protesting at this Tuesday’s event?
MS: We’ve compiled a list of small changes Bojangles’ can demand of their suppliers that will cause minimal cost increase, but raise the quality of life for the chickens they buy considerably. As of yet, they have not met with us or taken our suggestions, so we’re protesting their refusal to commit to higher welfare standards in their supply chain. Broiler chickens are bred to be morbidly obese by the time they’re 5 weeks old and their bodies just can’t support their weight, resulting in birds unable to move or stand. They’re also housed in these incredibly crowded “barns,” with little or no sunlight and zero room to move around. It’s completely unnatural and a far cry from the sunny fields with a big red barn that we’re told by advertisers to picture when we think of these farms. The way they’re slaughtered is also totally inhumane, and it doesn’t have to be that way. A few of Bojangles’ competitors (like Red Robin, Shake Shack, Quiznos, and TGI Fridays) have already made commitments to make these changes for pennies on the dollar, so we’re not sure why Bojangles’ leadership is dragging their feet. They pride themselves on serving only “high-quality products” to their customers and have become famous for their fried chicken, yet the birds used in those dishes are raised on cruel, filthy, and overcrowded factory farms. They really play into the fact that they serve southern meals with that home-cooked feeling, so we feel that their consumers need to know the truth about what they are actually supporting. I know my parents go to Bojangles’ after church and there’s a huge community of individuals who do just that. I see that as rather inconsistent, don’t you? To leave church and go and support a restaurant that supports egregious levels of cruelty to animals? We’re making our voices heard this Tuesday, since the animals can’t speak for themselves.
CLTure: Do you think people know what goes on in industrial chicken farms already, or will this be new information?
MS: People do know some of what happens at factory farms, and they don’t like it. No one condones animal abuse. But I don’t think they know how prevalent these practices are. Burnt legs and chests because of ammonia/lack of air circulation is standard on these farms. Genetically modified breeding so that these chicken’s bodies just don’t function properly is standard. Brutal slaughter and transportation practices are standard. There’s no meaningful set of laws in place to protect chickens raised for meat (we’re working on that too), but that doesn’t mean it has to be this way. And I think if we show Bojangles’ that their customers expect better of them, that they’ll raise the bar.
CLTure: Is Tuesday’s protest open to the public? Can people just show up? What should we expect?
MS: It is open to the public, but we’re asking people to RSVP here. It’s a silent protest and we have signage already made and ready for everyone. If you’re new to protesting, this is a great event to attend, as it’ll be calm and very well organized. We’ll basically hold signs and stand in unison, and be on hand to answer any questions people attending events at the coliseum have. It’ll be very peaceful and informational.
CLTure: What can people do to support THL past showing up at Tuesday’s protest/what are next steps?
MS: Refuse to buy products from companies that don’t address these issues. Your dollar is your voice! Take a second to watch some of the factory farm footage we’re showing as part of this campaign and if you don’t condone the behaviors you see, don’t spend your money with corporations that do. Make your voice heard by signing petitions. Support The Humane League on Facebook and keep up with future events and campaign progress that way, or sign up for our Fast Action Network and help us get the word out. There’s lots to do and the animals need our help.
More info on Tuesday’s Bojangles’ protest at the Coliseum