PETA has called off its anti-Wendy’s campaign after the fast-food chain agreed to its demands. The campaign was called off one day after Wendy’s told PETA it would strengthen its oversight of suppliers and improve the treatment of animals before and during slaughter. Fast-food companies concerned about their image should follow the Big Three’s new standards, rather than risking negative publicity that would damage their expensively built brands.

PETA has really been putting the pressure on fast-food companies. It took 11 months for McDonald’s to cave in to the organization’s demands to make its suppliers treat animals better. The next campaign target was Burger King, which took only six months to capitulate. PETA then accused Wendy’s of buying meat from suppliers who abuse cows, pigs and chickens by keeping them penned up so they can’t move, among other practices. After just two months of intensive campaigning, the company has agreed to improve conditions for animals at its suppliers.

The organization called off its campaign on Thursday, after Wendy’s promised to meet its demands. From now on, the company will conduct unannounced inspections of slaughterhouses and take action against suppliers that fail. It will institute more humane guidelines for catching chickens to reduce the number of bones broken and increase the voltage in electric stun baths when they are slaughtered. It will also ensure living conditions are improved, giving laying hens 72 square inches of space, improved air quality for chickens and an alternative housing system for sows.

Like McDonald’s and Burger King before it, Wendy’s claims that PETA did not cause the change in policy. It claims that the moves were already in the pipeline and said that the campaign had no effect on sales.

Nonetheless, fast-food companies undeniably need to be careful about their image. Of course, the switch to more animal-friendly farming methods will drive costs up. Yet, once McDonald’s and BK agreed to PETA’s recommendations, it made little sense for Wendy’s to be cast as the lone dissenter. The cost of negative publicity can be extremely high in the fast-food sector, given the huge amounts that companies spend on developing ‘family-friendly’ brands.

PETA is now certain to target another major player in the fast-food industry. It would make sense for companies concerned about their reputations to move in advance of any potential action, adopting the standards the Big Three now follow.

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