Grab yourself a juice box and make yourself comfortable, kids. Shredder’s going to tell you a nice, soothing—and not at all plagiarized—bedtime story. It’s about this guy named Ol’ McDonald, see. And he has this farm. Well, something like 31,000 farms worldwide. But for the sake of this story, just imagine a picturesque spread with some cows, chickens, maybe a fish tank or two. I’m trying to paint a picture here, but it’s not so easy on account of the fact that I’m now banned from any and all farms. Apparently, you’re not supposed to feed chickens McNuggets. Live and learn.
OK, so McDonald’s got this farm. EIEIO. And on that farm he had a chicken, EIEI … you already know where this is going, don’t you?
So then these chickens get cuffed, flipped upside down, and tossed through an electrically charged water tub before their throats are slit. That’ll make ’em talk, for sure. Wait, sorry, I was confusing food processing plants with the CIA’s “interrogation methods.”
But don’t you worry, kids. See, Ol’ McDonald selects these people to “advise” him about issues like “animal welfare.” ’Cause McDonald doesn’t want to hurt the chickens, see. He just makes so much money doing it that he just can’t help himself. So he finds people to give him the business about the proper way to treat a chicken—you know, open its door, offer it your jacket when it’s cold outside. Stuff I never excelled at. But I’ll bet if you paid me I could at least pretend to make an effort. Or not.
So McDonald’s tapping people to tell people crying about the dead chickens about how humane McDonald is, and how he’s really just a stand-up guy. I considered applying for the position myself. I’ve no great fondness for animals unless they’re freeze dried and paired with a variety of dipping sauces, and I’ve got a proven track record of saying whatever the person with the most money tells me to say. But apparently, the positions have already been filled.
I was somewhat surprised to realize that one of the butts occupying a seat on McDonald’s Welfare Advisory Panel is the very same butt occupying the Big Chief Head Honcho position over at Cal Poly. That is, President Jeffrey Armstrong’s bio on the Cal Poly website says he “advises McDonald’s Corporation in animal welfare.” A half-dozen calls to McDonald’s and Cal Poly PR bulldog Stacia Momburg later, and we’re left with a convoluted picture of Armstrong’s role. According to McDonald’s, Armstrong resigned when he was hired on at Cal Poly, but the two are “keeping the lines of communication open.” Does that have a canned celebrity break-up ring to it to anyone else, or am I reading too many tabloids? And Armstrong indicated he was still interested in advising good ol’ McDonald.
So, which is it? Does he or doesn’t he? Cal Poly has a PR team that could spin fairy farts into butter; were they so busy number-crunching the budget for the renovations to Armstrong’s house that they happened to forget to change the “advises” in his bio to past tense? Maybe the delete key on their keyboard is gunked up with honey mustard dipping sauce.
You can hardly blame them for worrying about how the president’s perceived affiliation with McDonald’s might look. Some people might think his chumminess with McDonald’s could possibly interfere with his decisions as the leader of an agricultural university. It wasn’t so long ago that Cal Poly bent over and let Harris Ranch Beef Company bang all those pretty pretensions about a balanced educational experience right out of them. All because Harris Ranch Beef objected to a scheduled lecture by author Michael Pollan and threatened to pull a $500,000 donation to the university.
Hey Cal Poly, there’s no shame there. Money talks. For $500,000, I’d barbecue a platter of babies. I’d throw Lassie down the well with Timmy. Or, at the very least, dress her in one of those obnoxious sweaters for dogs. I might as well make a list of the things I wouldn’t do for $500,000: Nothing.
See, Cal Poly? We’re not so different, you and me.
But in light of the public relations nightmare that was the Harris Ranch v. Pollan debate, you’d think Cal Poly would be sensitive about any perception that it’s vulnerable to big corporations interfering with its students’ educational experience.
Then again, in Armstrong’s capacity as chairman of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee for the United Egg Producers—he’s a busy bee—his supposed responsibility is to improve animal welfare using a scientific approach.
The United Egg Producers, in the same document that explains their mission and purpose, denounce PETA and the Humane Society. In a section titled “Common Sense on the Rise,” the completely unbiased report states gleefully that “animal-rights extremists are facing a backlash.” It then launches into an all-out assault on people who are encouraging the industry to turn to cage-free housing methods for the hens. Egg prices would soar! People would starve! That’s science!
Good ol’ Armstrong went so far as to write his own article discrediting the notion that cage-free animals enjoy a better quality of life. He found a kindred spirit in one Jocie Antonelli, a Notre Dame employee Armstrong cited as an expert.
“Antonelli said it was determined that quality of life might be slightly better in the cage-free system, but there was no real way of asking a chicken that question,” Armstrong wrote.
Quite brilliant, in my opinion. First, Armstrong was smart enough to pick up on the fact that chickens don’t speak English. That took me a while to figure out. Until they can turn to Armstrong and say, “B-gok! This cage makes me miserable!” he’s clear of any moral obligation to feel guilty.
Well done, McPresident. Let’s just hope the students at Cal Poly know how to speak up for their own best interests—or, at the very least, get a straight answer about Armstrong’s history as an adviser for the corporation.
The Shredder tastes great with ranch dressing. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.