By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated August 22, 2003 09:00 AM

Hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons has joined with the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to put KFC in the frying pan, reports The New York Times.

Earlier this week, Simmons, 45, called for a boycott of the national fried-chicken chain in a full-page ad that ran in the Courier-Journal in Louisville, KFC’s hometown newspaper.

The ad, featuring a photo of a smiling Simmons wearing a PETA baseball cap, contains an open letter from the music mogul to David C. Novak, the CEO of Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. Simmons asks Novak to get his poultry suppliers to improve their practices for raising and killing chickens.

“What KFC does to 750 million chickens each year, on your watch, is not civilized or acceptable, and you can change that,” writes Simmons, whom The Times describes as a vegan and a longtime PETA supporter. “I am calling for a boycott of all KFC restaurants until my friends at PETA tell me that you have agreed to be kinder in your practices.”

Yum executives tell The Times that they buy, cook and sell their poultry but are not responsible for their slaughter, which is done by suppliers who must follow welfare guidelines developed by industry experts.

As for responding to Simmons’s ad and its charges, Jonathan Blum, a spokesman for Yum Brands, said, “While PETA continues to push for a vegetarian world, most people disagree. We have no comment on PETA’s misinformation campaign.”