Disney’s Animal Kingdom “has the opportunity to present visitors with a magical, meat‑free menu.”
This past week, we published an op-ed Disney’s Animal Kingdom has an animal problem ... on menus in the Orlando Sentinel calling on Disney to make dining at its Animal Kingdom theme park meat-free. While the Company publicly touts its efforts at animal conservation -- to the point of completing a lifesaving procedure on a chicken -- it also fries the very same species in its park for hungry diners each day. We believe it's time for the park to back up its rhetoric with action.
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Daniel O’Brien & Sarah Fisher
Disney’s Animal Kingdom has an animal problem ... on menus
Commentary, Orlando Sentinel, February 4, 2022
In 2020, the Walt Disney Company released its Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom docuseries, which details the park’s efforts to care for the animals in its keep. In one of the series’ most gripping installments, Disney veterinarians performed a lifesaving surgery on a hen named Popcorn. The intensity of the procedure, and its performance on a garden-variety chicken, may have struck some as extravagant, even unnecessary. Yet to quote one of Popcorn’s keepers, “It really doesn’t matter if you were born (in the park) or if you’re a rescue. Every animal gets the same love and care here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.”
Unfortunately, this credo does not extend to the hundreds of thousands of chickens consumed at the theme park each year. Steps away from her recovery coop, Popcorn’s cousins are fried at Restaurantosaurus, one of dozens of Animal Kingdom food locations that serve almost exclusively meat-based entrées. Irony, thy name is Animal Kingdom.
Animal Kingdom is no ordinary theme park full of rides and attractions. The park hosts thousands of live animals, ranging from the primordial Komodo dragon to the scintillating purple starling. These animals form the centerpiece of the park’s mission of celebrating wildlife and promoting conservation. It is the sixth-most visited theme park in the world, with pre-pandemic attendance reaching nearly 14 million guests annually.
Last fall, we were among those millions. As we stepped off our Kilimanjaro Safaris jeep, a Disney cast member restated the park’s mission and encouraged us to adopt a conservation ethos. She concluded the ride by reminding us that “one huge thing (we) can do to help animals is skip single-use plastics like straws.” We were shocked that her sentence did not end with “don’t eat them.”
Beyond banning single-use plastics (as the park has done since its 1998 opening), Animal Kingdom has the opportunity to present visitors with a magical, meat-free menu.
Disney should have little room to argue against such a change. Plant-powered menus would reduce the slaughter of animals for meat and shrink the company’s environmental footprint. Leading meat substitute brand Beyond advertises its burger production as using 99% less water, outputting 90% less greenhouse gases, and occupying 93% less land than standard beef burgers’. Its competitor Impossible claims similar numbers. Further, the meat substitutes market (and, correspondingly, supply) is growing rapidly, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.2% from 2021 to 2027 —plenty to feed Disney’s hungry hordes.
As more people adopt plant-based diets — many motivated by animal welfare concerns — Animal Kingdom should allow guests to take part in conservation right at their Disney dining tables. Disney has a chance to make real change, to follow in the footsteps of prominent restaurants around the country in meeting its moral obligation to become meat-free — not only for Popcorn’s cousins, but for the planet at large.
It is time for Animal Kingdom to embody its motto of “celebrating all living things” by removing the animal kingdom from its menus.
Daniel O’Brien is a PhD candidate in physics at Georgetown University. Sarah Fisher is a JD candidate at William & Mary Law School. The two last visited Disney World in October 2021.
What Can I Do?
Feedback regarding the Animal Kingdom Theme Park can be sent to Disney World at:
Email to Disney World
March 28, 2022
Dear Disney World:
On behalf of United Poultry Concerns, I am writing to urge you to stop selling chicken and other animal products at your Animal Kingdom Theme Park.
While we are deeply grateful to you for encouraging your visitors to realize the importance of conservation, we find your serving of chicken products and other animal-based food to conflict, totally, with your conservation message.
Serving chicken nuggets, hamburgers, and the like contributes to the destruction of forests - particularly the Amazon Rainforest – all of which are being eroded to grow corn and soybeans for factory-farmed chickens and to graze cows. Serving these cruelly-produced animal-products contributes to the extinction of wild animals and their habitats and reinforces public ignorance of the true cost of these “cheap,” falsely-advertised “happy meals.” By serving chicken and other animal products, Animal Kingdom is catering to the view that it’s all right to abuse “farm” animals because all they are is something on the way to being eaten.
Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park is wonderfully positioned to promote plant-based versions of animal products. While I did find something on your website about vegetarian options, this offering was difficult to locate.
If you are sincere about encouraging your visitors to respect and appreciate animals, you must stop serving them. Chickens and other farmed animals are every bit as sentient as other animals and the suffering they endure on factory-farms is horrendous.
I would appreciate hearing from you about your plans – if you have any – for switching from an animal-based menu to a plant-based menu in your Animal Kingdom Theme Park.
Thank you for considering my request. I look forward to your response. .
United Poultry Concerns is a nonprofit organization that promotes the compassionate and respectful treatment of domesticated fowl.