Twitter: Popeyes’ ‘Emotional Support Chicken’ Stunt Is Ableist

‘Ignorant fools. Not funny’

Popeyes’ “emotional support chicken” gimmick got called out for being offensive to some members of the disabled community.

Though it was likely not intended to offend anyone, Popeyes’ “emotional support chicken” is a total misfire for people in the disabled community. The meal deal — a three-piece chicken tenders combo served in a chicken-shaped carrier — is exclusively available to travelers at the Philadelphia International Airport, and is jokingly marketed emotional support animal, mimicking animals people with visible and nonvisible disabilities and illnesses use when they travel.

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In a press release, the brand tried to explain that it was a play on the recent trend of people diversifying their service animals with exotic birds and arachnids as opposed to the more customary dogs and cats. “According to recent headlines, some travelers are pushing the envelope with the types of animals they try to bring on flights and classify as ‘emotional support animals,’” the brand wrote.

“After seeing this, Popeyes decided to offer its own version of ‘emotional support animals pushing the envelope’ by offering travelers ‘Emotional Support Chicken’ — a gesture designed to bring holiday travelers some needed humor to what is one of the most stressful places to be during the holidays — the airport.”

While some people loved the idea, it was no laughing matter for those in the disabled community who require the use of emotional support animals to get through their day or for anyone who is passionate about de-stigmatizing mental health issues.

“Popeyes' using cooked chicken meal boxes to mimic emotional support animals isn't hilarious at all. ... the marketing campaign is in bad taste!” wrote Twitter user winecountrydog.

“I’m curious where the humor is in making fun of people who actually have emotional support animals? Questioned a Twitter user by the name Michigan Thoughts.

“Seems to be an uptick on jokes abt disabled folks. Ignorant fools. Not funny,” responded Ky Sutherland.

“Hey, @PopeyesChicken, thanks for providing a case study in ableism as a gimmick for capitalism. Also, CHANGE THIS PLAN. It’s an awful one that makes light of the real support needs of individuals whose psychological conditions are already stigmatized,” wrote Shannon Dingle.

But while some were eloquent, other Twitter users preferred to cut right to the chase and criticize the character of the idea’s creators.

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While we're sure Popeyes just meant to make a topical joke and get people to buy more chicken, this stunt isn’t necessarily playing out as planned. Could this Popeyes gaffe end up as one of the most notorious moments in fast food history?