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Denny’s flips chickens the bird.

February 15, 2010

Update, 2/19/09: Please check out the comments, particularly the clarification from David at Farm Sanctuary and my own response to nadyne, before responding to this post. Thanks much!

Being a lady and all, I’m not really a big fan of televised sporting events. (Sarcasm, people, sarcasm!) And, given the rank sexism that permeates an unhealthy majority of the Super Bowl ads, I’ve long since stopped paying attention to those, too. (Tim Tebow protest letters aside.)

So when I received an email from Farm Sanctuary proclaiming that “Denny’s Acknowledges Suffering of Egg-laying Hens in Super Bowl Ads,” I did a double-take. Say what now?

Denny’s Acknowledges Suffering of Egg-laying Hens in Super Bowl Ads

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – February 10, 2010 – It was meant to be a humorous promotion for a free breakfast, but the dark undercurrent of truth running through the trio of Denny’s “Chicken Warning” Super Bowl ads did not go unnoticed by those familiar with the lifelong suffering of egg-laying hens. In the first 30-second spot, which is part of a new campaign created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners Inc., Denny’s introduces a brand advocate who invites viewers to enjoy a free Grand Slam breakfast, while warning chickens to get out of town because “it’s going to be a tough week for egg layers.” Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization, had this to say about the spot:

“In a surprise move, Denny’s, home of the Grand Slam breakfast, inadvertently delivered a powerful animal protection message to millions of Super Bowl fans during Sunday’s game between the Saints and the Colts. I say ‘surprise’ because it’s not every day that a major restaurant chain makes a public acknowledgment (and during the Super Bowl no less!) of the animal suffering that goes into the creation of their menu items, but that is precisely what Denny’s did with their ‘Chicken Warning’ ads.

“Although the scenes of egg-laying hens relaxing at home and playing pool couldn’t be further from the truth — they spend their entire lives on factory farms where they are packed so densely inside tiny wire cages and dark, filthy warehouses they can barely move or lift their wings — the spoken message that ‘it’s going to be a tough week for egg layers’ couldn’t have been more spot on. The cruel way these sensitive, intelligent birds, and all farm animals, are treated on America’s factory farms is incongruent with Americans’ values of compassion. When the announcer says ‘it’s a great day to be an American, bad day to be a chicken,’ we should remember that we are a nation that has always prided itself on fighting injustice and reaching out to those in need, rather than tolerating the torture and abuse of individuals less powerful than ourselves. Regardless of whether or not people found the ads humorous, Denny’s (however unintentionally) made the connection between animal suffering and the food on their menu, giving viewers a glimpse at the nasty truth behind eggs.”

Here are the three commercials in question:

Eh. While I suppose you could say that Denny’s publicly acknowledged – technically and in a roundabout way – “the animal suffering that goes into the creation of their menu items,” I’m not particularly impressed. After all, the animals’ exploitation is treated as fodder for a joke, thus trivializing what is in reality a serious issue (deadly serious). Neither is that suffering spelled out in concrete and detailed terms; rather, it’s referenced in a general way, leaving viewers to fill in the blanks for themselves. (In at least one of the commercials, egg laying is almost presented as a career choice for hens; e.g., “chickens might want to take the week off,” as though they’re being asked to put in overtime.) Cue the “happy meat” mythconceptions.

As much as I’d like to claim a victory (however small), I very much doubt that any omnivores watching gave any thought to the horrific conditions in egg laying facilities or reconsidered their consumption of “meat,” eggs or dairy. More likely, they guffawed at the very idea of bird suffering, cognition and emotions.

On the other hand, at least the animals aren’t depicted as happy participants in their own demise. (Talk about low standards!)

What do you think? Denny’s “Chicken Warning” Super Bowl commercials: touchdown or travesty?

22 Comments leave one →
  1. February 15, 2010 10:26 pm

    You are very right. Omnivores will definitely not make the connection. I was sadly mislead to believe that Denny’s made some sort of public announcement admitting to wrong-doing with egg suppliers when I read headlines on this subject. I do not think these ads are any sort of victory for animal rights. I am not believing that Denny’s is making/helping to make any sort of connection between eggs and animal suffering. The commercials were meant to be funny. Nothing more. Before I went vegan, I most likely wouldn’t have thought anything about the ads. Thank you for posting this. I had originally read the direct Farm Sanctuary article, which left me baffled. You said exactly what was on my mind for sure. Keep up the good work!

  2. Alex permalink
    February 15, 2010 11:29 pm

    Pretty sure the Farm Sanctuary email was tongue-in-cheek.

    • February 16, 2010 11:34 am

      Yes, Farm Sanctuary was NOT proclaiming a major PR breakthrough–obviously.

    • February 16, 2010 9:38 pm

      Huh, I hadn’t considered that. Perhaps I’ve gotten so used to PETA’s antics that my grasp of nuance has slipped! (Every time I read the press release, I pictured a Donna Brazile or an Alex Castellanos type reciting it on CNN, in full seriousness.)

  3. February 16, 2010 11:48 am

    I found the commercials incredibly offensive as did the rest of my vegan posse watching the super bowl…but that’s because we know what goes on in the egg industry.

    Most people don’t. There’s no way vegetarians or omnivores watching those commercials would think, “Hey, Denny’s might be intimating there’s something wrong with egg production, maybe I should reconsider my eating habits.” There was no “inadvertent” “nasty glimpse” at the egg industry in those commercials, not unless Denny’s was subliminally inserting clips of chopped up male chicks, debeaked hens, small cages, and slaughterhouses.

  4. February 16, 2010 11:09 pm

    It was dreadful… A mockery and a sham.

    I’m so tired of naysayers claiming that vegans are guilty of anthropocentrism. Yet commercials like this – And nearly everything about “happy (talking, singing, dancing) cows”, is an attempt to keep consumers in forever la-la land. You’d think any reasonable person would be insulted to smithereens. Pity that this takes an awareness most are unwilling to attempt. :(

  5. nadyne permalink
    February 18, 2010 11:09 pm

    kelly, with all due respect, i feel like people like you — who spend all their time complaining about the work that animal rights organizations that are actually making a difference do — are so stuck on your (pardon the expression) “high horse” that you don’t catch irony. that’s fine though, being dense never exactly hurt an animal (or maybe it has). but really, the dangerous part is that all of your pontificating is actually wasting valuable time that could otherwise be spent at actually getting involved with a campaign that creates real change for animals. and the in-fighting is just stupid. open your eyes. though it’s true that it was pretty dumb of farm sanctuary to try to claim a victory from a non-campaign (grasping at straws, anyone?), they were being ironic… or at least they were attempting to. the real enemy is not farm sanctuary, though farm sanctuary could obviously use a better press person who knows has to spin a story.

    • February 19, 2010 12:04 am

      Let’s try it this way: Nadyne, with all due respect, I feel that people like you — who spend their time making condescending, baseless, dismissive remarks about the work an activist does and the difference she’s making because they disagree with one blog post — are pretty dense and time-wasting themselves.

    • February 19, 2010 10:56 am

      nadyne – This was, admittedly, one off post I wrote during an otherwise shitty week. My intention wasn’t to criticize Farm Sanctuary so much as Denny’s. Clearly I didn’t pull it off.

      However, your tone and suggestions are insulting. I reject the idea that we as activists cannot ever, under any circumstances, criticize a social justice organization, particularly when such criticism is warranted. I see this same attitude, I dunno, every single time an animal advocate says something less than laudatory about PETA. It’s bullshit. It gets us nowhere. If a campaign, ad, statement or whatnot – made by any social justice organization, whether animal welfare/rights, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, civil rights, whatever – is unhelpful (at best) or prejudiced, either against the group of individuals the org. purports to help, or another marginalized group altogether (at worst), I absolutely think that it’s both helpful and necessary to point this out.

      This isn’t me getting on a “high horse,” trying to pretend that I’m perfect; this is me acknowledging that none of us are perfect – thus, it behooves us as activists and allies, working towards a common goal, to help one another grow, evolve and progress as people, and as a movement. Ignoring our own mistakes and imperfections only alienates those around us, both within and without the animal advocacy community. Don’t believe me? Go check out Vegans of Color, The Vegan Ideal, or Vegans Against PETA, and see the harm that racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/sizeist/speciesist/etc. campaigns cause to others.

      By the way, I find it telling that not a singe animal advocate has left a similarly obnoxious comment on the post I wrote criticizing The R-Word for its use of gender-based slurs in its campaign to end ableist insults. That speaks volumes.

    • February 19, 2010 11:26 am

      I feel as though I should also point out that I currently write for two other blogs in addition to Animal Rights & AntiOppression (three if you count the animal adoption listings I do for my local freecycle group, but I don’t). Given that 3/9 of the posts I’ve written for this space have been critical of social justice organizations, I can see how one might assume that I’ve nothing better to do all day than comb through the campaign materials of animal advocacy orgs., just waiting for someone to frak up, but I can assure everyone that this is not the case. In fact, I’ve spent the bulk of my free time this week writing about portrayals of animals in pop culture (most of it positive). Just sayin’.

  6. Michelle permalink
    February 19, 2010 5:48 pm

    Dennys was by no means trying to shed light on animal rights—instead, like you said, they were merely trying to get people’s attention for their own marketing selfishness. Surely, just like those anti-smoking commercials, it didn’t affect anyone but those that already know the effects of the industry. Sadly enough, I’m sure many people laughed at it to distance themselves from what really is going on, thus allowing them to live in ignorance and believe in “happy” meat (and poultry). So even though Dennys didn’t mean to shed light on animal rights, and even though some people may have not consciously made the connection, this is still a SMALL step in the right direction. At least we are getting some exposure. And like you implied, it sure beats those stupid “A CA cow is a happy cow” commercials, which, by the way, people actually will recite to me when I try to defend animal rights. I loathe that commercial; every time I hear that stupid line, the blood inside my veins boils. Anyway, what Denny’s punchline should have been is, “EVERYDAY is a good day to be an American, and a bad day to be a chicken”. That’s unfortunately the reality we live in.

  7. Michelle permalink
    February 19, 2010 6:04 pm

    The thing Nadyne has to remember that even bad press is good press…so even if you disagree with people’s beliefs—which, let’s face it, even though we all have a common goal, we will disagree with each other from time to time—is that without people who post articles all the time (even if they are in response to organizations aiming to protect animals) continue to get the word out more. This is an issue that I would not have read about if it wasn’t for Kelly’s blog. And really, that’s the most important part—spreading the word.

    And if the reader doesn’t agree with what she writes, then that’s fine….but the word is being spread and the seeds for animal rights are being planted regardless. Instead of posting such a condescending post to Kelly, you could have used that time to “get involved in a campaign that helps animals”.

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    June 21, 2011 3:30 pm

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  11. March 22, 2012 1:25 am

    Сериал “Папины дочки” – настоящий подарок для девчонок. Да, конечно, это комедийный сериал, даже немного “буфф”. Ситуации и персонажи, безусловно, гипертрофированы. Но, все же, этот сериал – настоящая отдушина среди заполонивших экран, жестоких и циничных лент. Это замечательно, что появилась компьютерная игра папины дочки – Как и всякая другая компьютерная игра, она помогает попробовать себя в роли персонажей сериала.


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