Popeye’s the famous fast food restaurant chain, focused on fried chicken, has just released a limited series packaging that made a few headlines. The packaging features a chicken but not in the way you might think. Popeye’s has relied on humour to criticise a social phenomenon we see more and more, but therefor they have also managed to turn some heads and stir-up emotions. All in all, they have accomplished to make the internet talk about them.
The phenomenon mentioned is the increased appearance and usage of Emotional Support Animals, in short ESA. These animals provide therapeutic comfort to individuals that suffer from mental illness or emotional disorders. In most cases, these animals are small dogs, rabbits or even cats but this does not necessarily have to be the case. This since unlike service animals, ESA’s don’t have to perform any specific tasks or duties aside from comforting the human in distress.
Though Emotional Support Animals are banned from most businesses and professional settings, owners of these animals are generally allowed to travel with these animals in-cabin on flights. No additional fees must be paid for the animal to accompany you, at least in the United States. This is due to the Air Carrier Act, which does underlie some exceptions. Airlines can for example impose restrictions under which animals must have every vaccination and cannot smell bad or unreasonably burden any other passenger. Whilst many guests have a legitimate need for such an animal, there is an increasing number of pet owner that are abusing this legislative loophole.
Popeye’s has hinted to this well-known fact with their packaging choice for certain airport branches of their franchise. A study showed that the number of ESA’s on regular commercial flights has risen over 74% from the year 2016 to 2017 alone. This regular abuse and disregard for the system has led to industry-wide tightening of the rules and a crack-down on certain types of animals. Reptiles, amphibians as well as certain types of farm animals such as sheep and goats are no longer allowed to be taken onto an in-cabin flight as support animals. Additionally, the ESA must be approved and certified by a health professional.
As mentioned, Popeye’s came up with a cheeky packaging solution to make light of the abuse whilst still abiding to the rules. Popeye’s Emotional Support Chicken is not an actual bird nor any other live animal. It is a limited-edition box that is made to look like a chicken, featuring a head out of cardboard as well as a sort of fitting shape. The chicken featured on the box is depicted wearing a vest that is similar to the ones that ESA would be subjected to wear. Not the official vests of support animals but rather the kind of vest that is found on Amazon and thus can be easily purchased by ESA imposters.
Hope Diaz, a spokesperson for Popeye’s has made the following statement: “We know holiday travel can be frustrating, and there’s no better way to ease stress than with a box of delicious Popeye’s fried chicken and a good laugh.”However not everyone shares Ms Diaz’s sense of humour, especially not PETA, which made their feelings known via twitter in the form of this statement: “Popeye’s is selling boxes of dead “emotional support chickens” for the holidays, proving they’re not above mocking mental illness AND animals who died gruesome deaths”. This might just be a bit too critical.
In any case, we believe that the Emotional Support Chicken might be the thing some people need to distract themselves from the sometimes, deplorable conditions of being cooped up in a jet for hours.