On Wednesday, the consumer advocacy organization SumOfUs joined forces with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to pressure Tyson Foods to eliminate the use of gestation-sow stalls from its pork supply chain.

The two groups report that an online petition initiated by SumOfUs directed a quarter million people to send a message to Tyson, the world’s second-largest meat processor and major pork supplier, that it needed to create plans to eliminate gestation stalls.

HSUS is a stockholder in Tyson Foods and attempted to pass a resolution regarding gestation stalls at the company’s annual meeting in February, but the measure failed. 

HSUS and SumOfUs point to recent announcements by such food companies as McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Kroger, Safeway, Oscar Mayer and Kraft, that have made plans to have their pork suppliers stop using gestation-sow stalls. While the timelines vary, 2017 and 2022 are the most common deadlines cited.

More direct competitors of Tyson-- Smithfield Foods, Hormel and Maple Leaf Foods officials-- have said their company-owned operations will stop using gestation stalls by 2017. Minnetonka, Minn.,-based Cargill is estimated to have 50 percent of its sow operations out of gestation stalls.

In its announcement on Wednesday, HSUS again highlighted video released in May that one of its undercover activists shot at Wyoming Premium Farms sow site in Wheatland, Wyo., which HSUS says “supplied animals to Tyson Foods.” While cull sows from the farm had been sold to a nearby Heinold buying station, which is a subsidiary of Tyson, the company clarified the reality.  “Let’s also make it clear that Tyson does not own, operate or have any contractual relationship with the Wyoming farm, which is primarily involved in providing feeder pigs to other companies not affiliated with Tyson Foods,” a Tyson statement outlined.

In an effort to keep pressure on Tyson, HSUS also in May filed a legal complaint with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) asserting that Tyson Foods made “deceptive public statements related to animal well-being.” HSUS pointed to the WPF video, and the industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus program, which HSUS says has no “mandated or enforceable animal welfare standards to conform to, making meaningful audits under the program impossible.”

“People oppose the abuse of animals raised for food, and gestation crates have come to epitomize that cruelty,” said Kaytee Riek, campaign manager at SumOfUs. “The demise of gestation crates has become inevitable, and Tyson should stop lagging behind its competitors and start thinking outside the crate.” 

“Tyson stands to lose both significant business as well as consumer trust if it doesn’t join its competitors and develop plans for a gestation crate-free future,” said Paul Shapiro, HSUS vice president of farm animal protection.