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Nationwide protests raise concern for pigs in Denny’s supply chain

Since the launch of a campaign against restaurant chain Denny's, concerned consumers are calling for an end to animal cruelty through nationwide protests.
March 1, 2024 Updated: April 24, 2024

Developing story – In January 2023, Animal Equality launched a nationwide campaign against Denny’s to call on the company to follow through on a decade-old commitment to end the use of crates for pregnant pigs in its supply chain. In response, nationwide protests against the restaurant chain broke out, with protestors “promising to be unrelenting” until Denny’s protects pregnant pigs.

As Denny’s continues to ignore this animal cruelty, their lack of acknowledgment or action only fuels its consumers to continue their efforts against the chain.

Chicago, Illinois

April 14, 2024 – Advocates protested outside a Denny’s restaurant owned by Dawn Lafreeda, the corporation’s largest franchise owner and board member of its Franchise Association. Together, demonstrators urged Lafreeda to use her influence and advocate for an end to extreme animal cruelty. 

Arlington, Texas

April 10, 2024 – As Denny’s executives, the Supply Chain Oversight Committee, and Denny’s suppliers and guests gathered for a golf tournament, advocates leafleted and spoke with attendees on the public golf course. When asked about cruelty in Denny’s supply chain, many executives refused to comment. 

Meanwhile, Denny’s CEO Kelli Valade actively avoided the calls from consumers, refusing to come outside and speak with Animal Equality’s advocates. As the events unfolded, Animal Equality’s mobile billboard was driven around the golf course parking lot where Denny’s attendees had gathered. 

April 11, 2024 – Protesters gathered outside the Live by Loews Hotel on the final night of the Denny’s Allied Partner Summit, just before the dinner and award ceremony. Dawn Lafreeda, Denny’s CFO Robert Verostek, and other guests were seen looking out the window as demonstrators engaged in a speakout that reverberated through the streets. 

Dallas, Texas

February 29, 2024 – Protesters gathered outside the Violet Crown Theater as it hosted an exclusive screening of Show Her the Money–a documentary co-executive produced by Denny’s franchise owner Dawn Lafreeda–a live networking event, and a panel discussion with a cast Q&A. During the event, demonstrators called on Lafreeda to speak out against animal cruelty. 

Prior to the event, the theater’s security had been alerted about the demonstrators’ presence. They placed barricades near the entrance and called the police, who brought in a riot van for peaceful protesters. Animal protectors stood outside in the rain with their megaphones as guests and passersby looked on. 

Irving, Texas

February 27, 2024 – Protesters from across the Dallas area gathered to expose Denny’s ties with cruelty at the Westin Irving Convention Center in Irving, Texas. 

Together, they opposed Denny’s nomination for the “Employer of Choice” Award at the Best Practices Conference, an event recognizing innovative restaurant businesses. Protesters pointed out that any corporation embroiled in an animal cruelty scandal was unfit to win an award recognizing leadership and impact. 

Police kept close watch of the peaceful protesters, who had been prevented from using their megaphones. Still, demonstrators stood firm, sharing their message with curious attendees. 

Phoenix, Arizona

February 17, 2024 – Demonstrators gathered outside the International Franchise Association convention to call on Denny’s current President, Kelli Valade, to take animal protection seriously.

A mobile billboard sat outside the convention with a message for Valade: “When will you end this abuse?”

New York, New York

January 25, 2024 – Almost one year after launching the Denny’s campaign, Animal Equality has targeted Finn Partners, asking the Denny’s client and marketing firm to use its influence to protect animals. Despite considering itself a “champion of change,” the firm partnered with Denny’s just months after its animal cruelty scandal broke. 

To kick off the campaign, Animal Equality hosted a demonstration outside Finn Partners’ flagship location in New York, New York. Animal defenders stood strong alongside Animal Equality’s President, Sharon Núñez, and its Executive Vice President, Jose Valle. 

Spartanburg, South Carolina

December 9 – 12, 2023 – Animal Equality team members from around the country, including its President, visited Denny’s headquarters in Spartanburg, South Carolina. The team carried out actions against the restaurant giant, starting with a demonstration at the headquarters. In front of journalists with local news stations WYFF 4 and Fox Carolina, the advocates attempted to deliver a message inside the headquarters.

They were immediately faced with a confrontational employee. The staff member refused to accept a hand-delivered box from peaceful advocates, which contained a letter representing 53,000 messages from concerned consumers who have been writing the company for over eleven months and counting.

A mobile billboard featuring a pig in a gestation crate also circulated the city for a week, while a static billboard appeared above Spartanburg’s only Denny’s restaurant.

New York, New York

December 7, 2023 – Demonstrators in New York gathered in front of another Show Her the Money premiere to call on Denny’s largest franchise owner, Dawn Lafreeda, to use her influence for pregnant pigs. One protestor wore a television screen, showing the cruelty Denny’s allows in its supply chain.

Chicago, Illinois

November 4, 2023 – Over a dozen protesters joined a second protest in the Windy City. Some stenciled the pavement with chalk paint, leaving messages that read, “Denny’s: Always open for cruelty.” As the manager of Denny’s attempted to redirect customers to a side entrance away from the demonstration, passersby stopped to express their support for pregnant pigs.

The owner of this particular Denny’s restaurant, Dave Kahre, sits on the board of Denny’s Franchisee Association and Supply Chain Committee. However, Kahre has remained unresponsive to consumers’ demands.

Dennys Protest in Chicago November

Kansas City, Missouri

October 17, 2023 – A protest against Denny’s broke out in front of the Denny’s Franchisee Association conference in Kansas City. The concerns of thousands of consumers were finally responded to by the son of a Denny’s executive who gave the peaceful demonstrators two middle fingers. Denny’s was made aware of the offensive gesture but continued to remain silent.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

September 21, 2023 – Animal advocates attended the premiere of Show Her the Money – a documentary produced by Denny’s largest franchise owner, Dawn Lafreeda. While the film raises important questions about the disparities women face in the business world, Lafreeda remains silent about a crucial issue in her business world at Denny’s.

Around a dozen advocates showed up with signs and banners asking Dawn to “oppose animal cruelty.” Curious attendees stopped to ask protestors more about the issue while entering the premiere. When the showing ended, movie-goers walked out to a light-up, mobile billboard displaying a photo of a pig in a gestation crate.

New York, New York

August 11, 2023 – Animal Equality took out a billboard in the heart of Times Square, which displayed Denny’s logo and the message: “Animal abuse is bad for business.” The message appeared for a week before changing to a new one that called on Denny’s (now former) President John Dillon to be honest about the restaurant’s ties with cruelty. Animal Equality team members passed out leaflets and captured the reactions of New Yorkers who shared their thoughts on Denny’s association with cruelty.

Los Angeles, California

July 30, 2023 – More than 30 individuals gathered outside Denny’s, attracting the attention of diners. Among the protestors, Animal Equality’s President and Co-founder, Sharon Núñez, delivered an impassioned speech emphasizing the responsibility of corporations like Denny’s to ban cages for pregnant pigs. 

Animal Equality holds protest outside of Denny's in LA

Chicago, Illinois

July 15, 2023 – A protest in Chicago inspired passersby to join in support of pregnant pigs. Standing united against animal cruelty, advocates gathered along a crowded highway holding their signs high. As cars passed, the demonstrators received supportive beeps, further demonstrating the growing public concern for the protection of animals in the food industry. 

Animal Equality holds protest outside of Denny's in Chicago, IL

Raleigh, North Carolina & Conway, Arkansas

July 1, 2023 – Two protests were held in Raleigh, North Carolina, and in Conway, Arkansas, where individuals held posters outside their local Denny’s. Demonstrators held signs with messages like “Denny’s: Always Open for Cruelty” and “Stop this Abuse,” urging the restaurant chain to take a stand against the suffering of mother pigs.

Protestors holding signs at Denny's in Raleigh, NC
Raleigh, NC

Las Vegas, Nevada

May 13 and 14, 2023 – Over Mother’s Day weekend, Animal Equality held a 24-hour protest for mother pigs on the Las Vegas strip. Passionate demonstrators held signs that read “Denny’s: Always Open for Cruelty” and “Stop this Abuse.” At the same time, a light-up mobile billboard drove up and down Las Vegas’s most populated areas for 19 hours, displaying a photo of a pig inside a gestation crate.

protestors outside Denny's flagship store in Las Vegas, NV

Austin, Texas

February 5, 2023 – Animal Equality and fellow activists protested in front of a Denny’s location in Austin, Texas. This was the largest protest Animal Equality has carried out in the US, including supporters in other cities demonstrating in front of their local Denny’s.

Denny’s Stands on the Wrong Side of History

Over a decade ago, Denny’s pledged to eliminate gestation crates for pregnant pigs. The tiny metal enclosures measure 7 feet by 2 feet, confining mother pigs in a space barely bigger than their own bodies.

The consequences of gestation crates are deeply distressing for the pigs, as backed time and time again by animal welfare experts and scientists. These intelligent and social animals experience immense stress and frustration. Coping with their confinement, some pigs resort to biting the metal bars of the crates or even banging their heads against them.

Credit Andrew Skowron - Pig inside gestation crate

In 2012, Denny’s vowed to eliminate gestation crates from their operations. However, despite the growing awareness and public concern over the inhumane treatment of mother pigs, Denny’s response has fallen short of expectations. While the company initially reported that approximately 30% of their breeding pig population had transitioned to group housing, a move that appeared to be a step in the right direction, they have since abandoned their commitment entirely.

Instead of fulfilling its promise to improve welfare standards, Denny’s has chosen to erase its pledge from its website altogether and instead has been promoting a new menu called “Baconalia” which has a variety of bacon-focused dishes. As an added promotion, they recently distributed free bacon strips to their Reward Members. 

Denny’s continued avoidance of the concerns of its customers and advocates places the burden of responsibility on the pregnant pigs trapped inside tiny metal cages. 

Take Action: Support Mother Pigs

Across the country, the rising support of Animal Equality’s Denny’s campaign is impossible to ignore. People from all walks of life are expressing discontent with the company’s allowance of animal cruelty and demanding change.

You can stand up for mother pigs with us. Help convince a major American brand to end the cruel practice of caging these animals. 

Here are five actions you can take to hold Denny’s accountable for their broken promise:

  1. Email Denny’s Executives: Visit Animal Equality’s campaign page and send a quick email to top leadership at Denny’s expressing your concern about the animal abuse they allow. Feel free to use the provided template or write your own heartfelt message.
  1. Comment on Social Media: Use the power of social media to raise awareness about this injustice. Leave comments on Denny’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages, urging them to stop using cruel gestation crates for mother pigs. 
  1. Call Your Local Denny’s: Reach out to your nearest Denny’s location and ask to speak with a manager. Express your disappointment about the company’s support of caging pregnant pigs and request that they share your concerns with the owner.
  1. Leave A Negative Review: If possible, leave a 1-star rating and a negative comment on platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Facebook. Highlight Denny’s authorization of caging animals and consider attaching an impactful photo to your review.
  1. Join Our Love Veg Movement: By reducing or eliminating meat, dairy, and eggs from your diet, you can actively contribute to ending this cycle of suffering! Join us on the Love Veg journey today.

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