Somebody Burned and Beheaded a Ronald McDonald Statue

Carey Wedler | ANTIMEDIA

Somebody gave Ronald McDonald the Saudi treatment this week.

Burlington, VT — This week, vandals beheaded a Ronald McDonald statue, the global mascot of the behemoth fast food chain. The statue, located outside a Vermont Ronald McDonald House charity, was defaced on three separate occasions until officials at the charity removed it.

The Ronald McDonald statue stood outside the Burlington, Vermont location of Ronald McDonald House Charities, an organization McDonald’s launched in 1974 to aid sick children. The Vermont location provides low-cost accommodation for children being treated at the nearby University of Vermont Medical Center. According to Kristine Bickford, the Burlington house’s executive director, the vandals first burned the statue’s face. On another night, they cut off the head (it was later found discarded by the city’s waterfront). Finally, the vandals sawed off the statue’s feet. Bickford said the statue was removed after children were “traumatized” by its jarring injuries.

Nevertheless, the actions reflect unrelenting disdain for the much-maligned corporation.

Though the company has attempted to add more health-conscious options to keep up with growing demand, it has been plagued with a relentless slew of bad publicity. McDonald’s was recently eviscerated by critics after a viral video revealed chickens from Tyson, one of its suppliers, were routinely abused. McDonald’s announced in April it would close over 700 locations, and in June, Anti-Media reported the chain was shrinking for the first time in decades. Young consumers are increasingly defecting from the chain, and just last week, several franchise owners reported in a survey that the company is in its “final days” — though if they are correct, McDonald’s has not officially admitted as much.

The decapitation of the statue comes little over a week after the widely-publicized destruction of a Christopher Columbus statue on Columbus Day, ostensibly in protest of the increasingly archaic national holiday that implicitly celebrates the brutal Western oppression of Native people in North America. The destruction of the Ronald McDonald statue highlights similar impassioned opposition.

While the vandalism is symbolic of laudable consumer alienation from the toxic fast food restaurant, it should be noted that Ronald McDonald House is an entity separate from McDonald’s. Though McDonald’s created the foundation, the company has faced intense criticism for its tepid support of the charities. In spite of the shared name and McDonald’s claims that the “houses” embody the company’s values and goals, it fails to provide substantial material support.

A 2013 report found that McDonald’s customers give more to the charity than the company itself: “[I]n 2012, McDonald’s customers gave about 1.5 times more to the charity than the corporation donated overall in 2011,” it noted. The report, funded by Corporate Accountability International and the Small Planet Fund, also alleged that “While McDonald’s reaps 100% of the ‘branded benefit’ from the charity, it contributes only about 20% of the money,” according to an article by USA Today.

The report argued that “McDonald’s gains an emotionally-loaded marketing vehicle while shielding itself from critics” by using the mascot to represent the charity.

As for the Burlington location, Bickford suggested the vandals were likely unaware of the difference between McDonald’s and Ronald McDonald House Charities and the lack of support the philanthropic organizations receive from their parent corporation. She suspected it was a prank. “I plead to anybody who did do this act, that they would come down and maybe look and see what we have here and what it really means to come into this house,” she said. “And they might have second thoughts about what they did. And maybe they’d even donate some volunteer hours here.”

The $7,500 cost of replacing the statue — to be kept indoors in the future — will likely be covered by a recently launched Go Fund Me campaign.

Destruction of private property cannot be condoned, but it seems the least the vandals could have done was target a restaurant location as opposed to a charity that houses sick children. Regardless of the little-known difference between the two entities, however, the colorful acts of vandalism likely indicate that the growing backlash against the global franchise chain is unlikely to cease.

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