Animal-rights group PETA on Wednesday said it would campaign to force No. 2 fast-food group Burger King to adopt new animal welfare standards, following a similar publicity effort last year against McDonald's.
Burger King, a unit of British conglomerate Diageo Plc, serves massive quantities of meat and eggs in its 11,310 outlets worldwide and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals says it shares responsibility for what it alleges are cruel animal practices among its suppliers.
The group said Miami-based Burger King, the second-largest U.S. beef buyer after McDonald's, does little to ensure animals are never slaughtered while conscious and to ensure that hens are not starved to stimulate extra eggs.
PETA also said hens raised for Burger King often had their beaks cut off and were jammed in tiny cages to save money and ensure higher yields.
PETA's campaign will advocate people boycott Burger King and will involve demonstrations, advertisements resembling the company logo and bearing the words "Murder King," and an Internet site, campaign coordinator Bruce Friedrich said.
"Having it Burger King's way means treating animals like scum," PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said. "McDonald's now leaves Burger King in the dust when it comes to animal welfare."
PETA, whose campaigns have included a much-criticized parody advertisement blaming New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's prostate cancer on animal foods, last year suspended a similar pressure campaign against McDonald's Corp.
McDonald's, the world's biggest restaurant group, in August said it would require egg suppliers to provide hens nearly twice as much space as the industry average and would buy more eggs from suppliers who ban beak trimming. McDonald's also makes surprise visits to slaughterhouses and hen houses.
"All we are asking is that Burger King do what its biggest competitor has promised to do," Friedrich said. "Once Burger King has agreed to what McDonald's did, in a timely, verifiable manner, we will stop."
A Burger King spokeswoman said the company had formed an advisory council of mostly non-company experts and trade officials with an eye to possibly changing its policies.
"Burger King Corp. takes the issues of food safety and animal welfare very seriously, and we expect our suppliers to comply with the Federal Humane Slaughter Act during the production process," the company said.
The campaign starts as Burger King works to lift its same-store sales ahead of a possible stock flotation of the business by Diageo. Just on Monday, Burger King announced it had chosen McCann-Erickson as its new lead ad agency with a brief to lift restaurant sales.