The Humane Society of the United States has submitted a shareholder proposal asking Oakville, Ontario-based restaurant chain Tim Hortons to disclose to shareholders the feasibility of ensuring that the bacon and other pork products used for its U.S. locations does not come from pigs bred using gestation crates—cages that virtually immobilize breeding pigs for much of their lives.
The proposal will be voted on at the company’s annual meeting in May.
“People simply don’t support the lifelong confinement of farm animals in tiny crates,” says Matthew Prescott, food policy director for The HSUS' farm animal protection division.
“When it comes to addressing cruelty to animals, an issue that American consumers feel strongly about, Tim Hortons is severely lagging.”
In the pork industry, most breeding pigs are continuously confined for the duration of their four-month pregnancy in gestation crates so small they can’t even turn around. The animals are placed into another crate to give birth, then are re-impregnated and put back into a gestation crate. The cycle repeats—pregnancy after pregnancy—until the animals are slaughtered.
Earlier this month, McDonald’s said it “wants to see the end of sow confinement in gestation stalls in our supply chain.”
The company told suppliers to plan for a phase-out on grounds that “there are alternatives that we think are better for the welfare of sows.”
This was only the latest in a string of landmark announcements by producers and food suppliers who are moving away from such extreme confinement of pigs.
A copy of The HSUS's shareholder resolution is available upon request.
Eight U.S. states and the European Union have enacted laws to phase out gestation crates.
About 70 percent of breeding sows in the United States are confined in crates so small the animals can barely move for their entire lives. Extensive scientific research confirms that this practice causes suffering. Farm animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin, unequivocally states that "gestation stalls have got to go."
A 2007 American Farm Bureau-funded poll found that 95 percent of Americans think farm animals ought to be treated well. A study by food industry consulting firm Technomic found that animal welfare is among the top three concerns of American restaurant patrons.
Major U.S. pork producers such as Smithfield Foods and Hormel have created policies to eliminate gestation crates at their company-owned operations and others, like Cargill, have started to reduce their use of gestation crates. Canadian pork producer Maple Leaf Foods also has a policy to make its company-owned operations gestation crate-free.