These Yogurt Cups Are Killing Small Animals

Yogurt is a delicious, nutritious, cost-effective staple of healthy eating. Some call it the secret to perfect skin. Hell, it can even be used to tenderize meat or soothe a cooking burn. But for small, wild animals like squirrels or skunks, it can also be a sad death sentence, thanks to some careless packaging design. Turns out the classic Yoplait yogurt cups we're all familiar with have been killing wildlife pretty much since their inception in 1978.

What happens, exactly? Small wild animals, tempted by the sweet smell of leftover food, will often stick their heads inside of all kinds of discarded food containers to chow down on the scraps we leave behind. And in the case of the classic conical Yoplait yogurt containers, they get stuck there. The shape of the container isn't the problem; nor is the size of the opening (5.25 inches). Rather, the thin lip at the top of the container is to blame.

The design allows an animal to force its head past the flexible rim and into the container. But when the animal is done eating and tries to back out of the container, the thin lip at the top will catch the animal's head or neck. (Think of it kind of like the spikes lining the entrance and exit of a rental car facility: Pull forward, no problem. Try to back up...flat tire city.) Stuck inside of the containers, these small animals are then deprived of fresh air, unable to see, eat, or drink, and will have no hope but to suffer and die if not rescued in time.

All of which is sad enough on its own, even if you didn't grow up imagining small animals as possessing fully formed personalities (we learned so much from Disney movies). But what makes it even sadder is that this is, quite simply, not new news to Yoplait's parent company, General Mills.

In August 1998, under pressure from animal activists, the company added messaging to the label urging consumers to "Protect Wildlife Crush Cup Before Disposal," a move that essentially places responsibility for their hazardous packaging onto those who use it, because, as a spokeman for General Mills reportedly said, "That design is a key lure for customers and changing it could harm sales."

But the folks at Wildlife Emergency Services would like to show General Mills that sales will be harmed if they don't make a change. In an effort to get out the message, they have started a No Yoplait campaign, complete with petition on urging people to not purchase Yoplait yogurt — especially in the harmful funnel-shaped cups — until a change is made. And on behalf of ourselves and the thousands of small animals they are trying to protect, we say kudos.

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