Leave it to Corporate America to take something sacred and meaningful, co-opt it, and turn it into something cheap and tawdry in order to capitalize on it. The most recent demonstration of this is a publicity stunt Burger King tried to pull off.  On August 26th, Burger King published an “open letter” to McDonald’s in full-page ads appearing in the New York Times and Chicago Tribune: “We come in peace. In fact, we come in honor of peace. We know we’ve had our petty differences, but how about we call a ceasefire on these so-called ‘burger wars’?”

Burger King’s proposal: on September 21st, in “honor” of International Peace Day, the two fast food companies engage in a “one-off collaboration,” and create the “McWhopper.” This menu offering would include six ingredients from each “sandwich,” and would be sold for one day only at a temporary location in Atlanta, Georgia – the “halfway point” between the two company’s corporate headquarters.

Really, Burger King?

The idea – according to the open letter – is to “create something special – something that gets the world talking about Peace Day.” Proceeds would go to Peace One Day, a non-profit organization founded by British actor and film maker Jeremy Gilley in 1999. Peace One Day coordinates relief efforts around the world and sponsors events in order to raise awareness about alternatives to armed conflict.

In response, McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook posted the following on its Facebook page:

We love the intention but think our two brands could do something bigger to make a difference.

We commit to raise awareness worldwide, perhaps you’ll join us in a meaningful global effort?

And every day, let’s acknowledge that between us there is simply a friendly business competition and certainly not the unequaled circumstances of the real pain and suffering of war.

You got that right, Mr. Easterbrook.

Burger King’s intentions were nothing more than a cheap publicity stunt. The fast food industry has been implicated in the destruction of rainforests, starvation in developing countries, the exploitation of children, cruelty to animals, misrepresenting its “food” as somehow being nutritious, and underpaying workers.

McDonald’s has been attempting to clean up its image in recent years. However, it still has a ways to go on many aspects of its business practices. Meanwhile, Burger King has had its share of legal issues over the years. These include wage theft, discrimination and other workplace violations. Last year, the company took over the Canadian donut chain, Tim Hortons, relocating its base of operations in Canada. As a result, Burger King successfully avoids paying US taxes (the move is called “inversion”).

Burger King has never proven to be a concerned corporate citizen. It needs to seriously concentrate on cleaning up its own house before trying to convince consumers that it wants to save the world.


K.J. McElrath is a former history and social studies teacher who has long maintained a keen interest in legal and social issues. In addition to writing for The Ring of Fire, he is the author of two published novels: Tamanous Cooley, a darkly comic environmental twist on Dante's Inferno, and The Missionary's Wife, a story of the conflict between human nature and fundamentalist religious dogma. When not engaged in journalistic or literary pursuits, K.J. works as an entertainer and film composer.