Two animal welfare experts said they resigned as advisors to fast-food chain KFC after the company asked them to sign an agreement preventing them from speaking publicly about its policies on such issues as animal slaughter.
Temple Grandin of Colorado State University and Ian Duncan of the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, said they stepped down from KFC parent Yum Brands Inc.'s animal welfare committee this week after being sent the agreement, which Grandin said would have required them to refer all media inquiries to KFC's corporate headquarters.
"I resigned because there is a document that I can't sign," Grandin said Thursday. "I feel very strongly that I can talk freely to the press about how the program's working, what's been going on with the program."
Grandin, who has also worked with chains such as McDonald's Corp., Wendy's International Inc., and Burger King Corp., said she was used to preserving confidentiality with respect to suppliers and pricing information. But, she said, no other company, including KFC, had ever asked her to sign an agreement asking her to refrain from speaking to the media.
"Certain things are confidential.... I will not give out pricing information or information about who is supplying chicken where," Grandin said. "That type of confidentiality agreement I sign all the time."
KFC spokeswoman Bonnie Warschauer said the contract was no different from previous confidentiality agreements that members of the animal welfare committee, including Grandin and Duncan, had signed.
"It's just the same confidentiality agreement they've always had. We're just asking everybody to re-sign it," Warschauer said.
She did not say why KFC was asking panel members to sign again, and added that she did not know whether other committee members had signed it.
"I don't see why they wouldn't," Warschauer said.
Warschauer said Grandin, Duncan and another animal welfare expert gave KFC a list of recommendations on animal welfare in March. Warschauer said the company had a "plan of action" for each of the steps.
Duncan said he too would have felt curtailed by the agreement.
"The way that I read it, it wouldn't allow me to talk in general terms about animal welfare," Duncan said.
KFC has been criticized by activists who claim the chain has not done enough to ensure the chickens it uses are cared for and slaughtered humanely. The company has denied those charges.