World Animal Protection (WAP) delivered an important message to KFC headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky this week, presenting a petition with more than 500,000 signatures to the fast food giant.

The petition urges KFC to stop supporting horrifically cruel factory farms and commit to sourcing their chickens from farms that support natural growth rates and a better environment for the animals.

“We are deeply grateful to the more than 500,000 supporters who’ve signed our petition calling on KFC to give chickens a better life,” Alesia Soltanpanah, US executive director at WAP, told Lady Freethinker. “KFC has the power to transform the lives of chickens on a truly global scale – but they need to take action.”

Unlike fast food competitors Burger King, Subway and Starbucks, KFC — who make billions of dollars every year from the slaughter of animals — have yet to take any action to address the welfare of chickens in their supply chain.

Factory farms are hellish places for animals, as exposed repeatedly through undercover investigations by animal welfare groups. As these farms try to maximize profit, they fatten up their chickens for slaughter in only 40 days using unnatural methods that put enormous pressure on the organs and legs of the chickens. The birds endure chronic pain and health problems, with many suffering from heart attacks due to these rapid growth rates.

“Chickens on factory farms suffer enormously, buckling under their own weight, without space to perform their natural behaviors, and never seeing the light of day,” said Soltanpanah. “By committing to higher-welfare farming, KFC can send a strong signal to other food companies that change for chickens is possible. Animal welfare is important to consumers, and it is important to human health as well. It’s time for KFC to show that it’s important to them, too.”

WAP met with KFC parent company, Yum! Brands, last week, and are hopeful about working with them to make a positive change for animals.

In the meantime, there remains one sure-fire way to eat cruelty free: by opting for plant foods, and leaving animals off your plate.