As a shareholder of Tim Hortons—an Oakville, Ontario-based restaurant chain-- the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is asking for action on the treatment of pigs in its U.S. supply system.

Specifically, HSUS wants Tim Hortons to disclose to its shareholders the feasibility of ensuring that bacon and other pork products the restaurant chain uses in its U.S. locations does not come from pigs traced back to systems using gestation-sow stalls.

This mirrors McDonald’s plan announced in late February, in which it asked its suppliers for a report on their long-term gestation-sow housing strategies. McDonald’s has given its suppliers a deadline of reporting back by May.  McDonald’s told its suppliers to plan for a phase-out on grounds that “there are alternatives that we think are better for the welfare of sows.”

The HSUS proposal for Tim Hortons 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 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 recent weeks, Smithfield Foods and Hormel Foods have outlined or re-committed to policies that will move gestation sows out of stall-housing systems in their company-owned operations by 2017.

HSUS cites Cargill as another pork production system that has started to reduce their use of gestation stalls. Canadian pork producer/packer Maple Leaf Foods also has a policy on the books to move its company-owned operations away from using gestation-sow stalls. HSUS wants these producer/packers to extend their policies to independent producers from whom they purchase market hogs.

The activist group also is challenging other pork producer/packers such as Seaboard Foods and Tyson Foods to follow suit in their own sow-housing policies.  

Tim Hortons is the fourth largest publicly-traded quick service restaurant chain in North America (based on market capitalization) and the largest in Canada, according to the company’s website. The franchise started out as a coffee and donut shop started in 1964 by Tim Horton, a blueline defenseman who spent 22 years in the National Hockey League, most of it as a Toronto Maple Leaf. Horton died in 1974 in a car accident.

Tim Hortons’ is a quick-serve restaurant chain that features premium coffee, breakfast sandwiches and baked goods, and home-style entrees. Tim Hortons has more than 3,000 restaurants in Canada and more than 600 in the United States, predominently on the East Coast.

It was once owned by Wendy's but is again a stand-alone company. The overall business structure also includes Cold Stone Creamery. More information about the company is available here.