When I graduated from UNC three years ago, I was proud to have helped build a strong relationship between socially conscious students and Carolina Dining Services. As a representative from the student group FLO (Fair, Local, Organic) Food, I met with CDS, including several employees from Aramark, UNC’s dining service provider, on a regular basis for several semesters. Together, we worked to add healthier, more sustainable food options to the dining halls. Our collaboration also led to the dramatic expansion of the on-campus farmers’ market, which continues to be an enormously popular event.
That’s why it saddens me, perhaps more than any other student past or present, to say that I’m now joining a growing movement of students and alumni across the country urging our universities’ administrators to kick Aramark off campus.
I respect the many Aramark employees with whom I worked, and my complaint is nothing personal. This is bigger than the surely well-meaning individuals in CDS. On a corporate level, Aramark has proven itself to be a fundamentally socially irresponsible company when it comes to animal welfare.
Currently, Aramark does not have a single policy in place to protect the chickens in its supply chain. As a result, chickens endure endless agony on Aramark’s supplier farms.
Birds on these farms are confined inside filthy, windowless sheds and forced to stand atop accumulated waste that burns their eyes and lungs with ammonia fumes. The barren environment offers them few opportunities to engage in natural behaviors. Most egregiously, the chickens’ own genes have been engineered through heartless selective breeding to work against them. They grow grotesquely large at a monstrous speed. The birds’ bones, hearts, and other organs can’t keep up with their bodies’ weight, and many die of heart attacks, organ failure, or dehydration when they can no longer reach water.
An even crueler fate awaits the animals who survive this abuse. At the slaughterhouse, they’re thrown upside down into metal shackles, electrocuted, slit at the throat, and then scalded in hot water. Many birds endure this entire process while still alive and able to feel pain.
No animal deserves this torture. Chickens are intelligent and sensitive; they have individual personalities just like dogs and cats. They can learn their names, form close bonds with their family members and human companions, and can even perform simple arithmetic.
I know that if given the choice, the Carolina community would not welcome a dining service provider that supports horrific animal abuse. Regardless of what students choose to eat at the dining hall, and regardless of our own ethics — I now choose not to eat any animal products—we can all agree that this abuse is morally wrong and must stop.
At a minimum, Aramark should give birds more room, natural light, and other environmental enrichments. It should stop breeding them to put on weight their own bodies can’t support. And it should transition to less cruel slaughter methods — ones that would guarantee the birds are unconscious before they are sliced and scalded.
Fellow alumni, students, and other members of the UNC family, please join me in asking Chancellor Folt to pledge not to renew Aramark’s contract with CDS unless the company adopts a progressive, thorough animal welfare policy.
Class of 2013
Food Studies, French
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