The Humane Society of the United States and Humane Society International/Canada praised Oakville, Ontario-based Tim Hortons — which has more than 4,000 restaurant locations across Canada and the U.S. — for its newly-announced policy to eliminate controversial gestation crates from its pork supply chain.
Gestation crates are cages used to tightly confine breeding pigs to the point the animals can’t even turn around.
Tim Hortons’ new corporate responsibility report states: “We consulted with our suppliers, the pork industry, and other stakeholders on the use of gestation stalls for breeding sows and reviewed their plans throughout 2012. By 2022, we will source pork from suppliers who have made a transition to alternative open housing.”
Matt Prescott, food policy director for farm animal protection for The HSUS, says: “We applaud Tim Hortons for addressing one of the most critical animal welfare issues in food production today. Tim Hortons’ move supports the food industry’s rejection of gestation crates as irresponsible, unsustainable, and inhumane.”
Sayara Thurston, campaigner with HSI/Canada, says: “By moving away from the use of gestation crates, it is clear that major retailers are listening to the concerns of their consumers. As the National Farm Animal Care Council reviews the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs, the Code Development Committee must take in to account the wishes of dozens of leading retailers and include a timeline for the complete elimination of gestation crates from the Canadian pork industry.”
Similar announcements made recently by Oscar Mayer, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Costco, Safeway, Kroger, and other leading food companies signal a reversal in a three-decade-old trend in the pork industry that leaves most breeding pigs confined day and night in gestation crates during their four-month pregnancy. These cages are roughly the same size as the animals’ bodies and designed to prevent them from even turning around. The animals are subsequently transferred into another crate to give birth, re-impregnated, and put back into a gestation crate. This happens pregnancy after pregnancy for their entire lives, adding up to years of virtual immobilization. This confinement system has come under fire from veterinarians, farmers, animal welfare advocates, animal scientists, consumers, and others.
Tim Hortons’ announcement comes at a time when the Canadian pork industry is reviewing and revising its Codes of Practice and considering a nationwide phase-out of gestation crates. Referring to this process, the Tim Hortons corporate responsibility report stated: “Further, we will work with the pork industry and governments to advance standardized approaches and codes resulting in more humane and sustainable open housing systems.”