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Carl Icahn challenges BlackRock and other big firms to join his pig fight against McDonald’s

April 21, 2022, 6:04 PM UTC

Billionaire and activist investor Carl Icahn wants McDonald’s to step up its animal welfare effortsand he’s challenging the country’s biggest fund managers to put their money where their mouth is and help him.

For years Icahn has been involved in a fight with McDonald’s over how the company treats the pigs raised for its products. The big battle in the now decade-long war is over gestation crates, small containment units that are used to house pregnant pigs.

Icahn wants the restaurant chain to honor its 2012 commitment to stop using cramped gestation crates, which can be used to confine pregnant pigs for more than six weeks in boxes seven feet long. Icahn has referred to the practice as a “glaring cruelty.” 

Neither Icahn or McDonald’s immediately responded to Fortune’s request for comment.

The fast-food chain insists it’s on track to honor its commitment by 2024two years later than the original timeline set in 2012. Icahn isn’t satisfied, and is now courting some powerful figures to join his fight.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, Icahn said that major asset managers including BlackRock are not doing enough to honor their commitment to ESG (environmental, social, and governance) values, and are allowing the McDonald’s board to get away with animal mistreatment.

“They have tremendous power to do good or bad,” Icahn said.

BlackRock manages over $10 trillion in funds, and currently owns 7.1% of McDonald’s shares, equal to around $13.6 billion.

Icahn again criticized asset managers’ unwillingness to push McDonald’s board members for more humane treatment of pigs in an open letter sent to shareholders Thursday, calling the ESG commitments of big Wall Street firms and asset managers “the biggest hypocrisy of our time.”

In the letter, Icahn suggested that fund managers’ pledges to leave a positive impression on the world have helped them grow their profits, but have yet to bear any tangible social impact. He also accused these companies of selectively choosing which ESG causes to support, and ignoring animal rights.

“I believe the world’s largest asset managers, who collectively possess immense influence due to their trillions of dollars in capital, must stop subjectively selecting which ESG principles are important,” Icahn wrote.

He called on fund managers to pivot toward animal welfare to demonstrate their commitment to all ESG principles, and challenged them to hold the McDonald’s board accountable for what he called the mistreatment of animals.

BlackRock is said to have doubled its sustainable assets to $509 billion in 2021, with founder and CEO Larry Fink frequently speaking out on the importance of businesses upholding ESG principles.

Icahn, who holds a small stake in McDonald’s, nominated two new prospective board members in February who share his views and would push for more humane treatment of pigs at the company. 

McDonald’s announced in a February statement that these prospectives were being considered and that shareholders would vote on their approval in May.

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