10 September 2012

What the new vegetarian McDonald's means for India

If you follow the history of factory farming in the United States, you’ll see that beef, chicken, potatoes and apples have become industrialized due to “the McDonald’s effect.” Whenever McDonald’s chooses a product for mass consumption, their team of production specialists begins changing the way that product is grown and treated. It was McDonald’s that spurred farmers into creating factory farms wherein the chickens and cows are treated like objects rather than sentient beings, writing contracts that bind the farmers to the factory farm style of production.

According to the AFP story announcing the all-vegetarian McDonald’s restaurants opening in India, the idea is to “go local” with all that this implies. First, they intend to tailor the menu to local tastes, adding spicier sauces and eliminating meat from the ordering options. This is only a minor change from the configuration of the restaurants McDonald’s already has existing in India. The current 271 restaurants served chicken and veggie sandwiches but no beef or pork. But what does going local mean in the long run for both McDonald’s and the people of India?

There is no doubt that McDonald’s is there for no other reason than to make a profit. They want their share of the fast food market to extend into India, a pool of 1.2 billion people. They aren’t hiding this fact. But McDonald’s and the cheap, high calorie, high fat food they sell are also at least partially responsible for the upsurge in obesity in America and the UK. We can be pretty certain that, in a country already lacking in basic sanitation and health services in many areas, obesity and further failing health will follow the McDonald’s trail.

However, the more worrying concern is the animals. Although the chain will have a vegetarian menu in the new restaurants, vegetarian is not vegan. They will still use eggs, milk and cheese. This means that calves will be separated from their mothers at birth for the manufacture of milk and cheese for ice cream, lattes and the American cheese slices on the veggie burgers. What will happen to the calves at that point is uncertain since cows are sacred in India and therefore they cannot be killed for veal unless they are exported first. Given the industrial mentality of McDonald’s supply chain, this is not unlikely. Laying chickens will still be stuffed into battery cages and given drugs that increase their egg production. The cycle will continue in India, while we haven’t been able to stop it in America.

The real question is: Will India demand humane treatment of the animals? Since treatment of cattle is friendly and accommodating, we can only hope that the people of India will not allow McDonald’s to turn other animals into products to be abused and mistreated.

Fianna MacGregor | Blog | Blog | Twitter | Email New York City Fianna has been vegan for 36 years. She is currently working on a second M.A. in Human Rights from NYU. When she isn’t veganizing every cookbook she can get her hands on, she’s working her urban farm in New York City. She also writes extensively on veganism, running and green living. Her newest project is to trace everything she buys to find out if it’s cruelty-free (both animal and human) and eco-friendly. Fianna and her fiancĂ© are animal rescuers of dogs, cats and birds.

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