Tim Hortons Inc. , a Canadian coffee shop chain looking to make deeper inroads south of the border, is under mounting pressure by animal rights activists to assure that its U.S. pork and egg suppliers adopt more humane practices.
The Humane Society of America said Tuesday it will propose a shareholder vote in May on whether the chain should work to stop the practice of confining hens in cages and sows in gestation crates.
“When it comes to addressing cruelty to animals, an issue that American consumers feel strongly about, Tim Hortons is severely lagging,” Matthew Prescott, food policy director at the Humane Society, said in a statement announcing the proposal.
A Tim Hortons spokeswoman was not immediately available to comment.
The organization can claim a string of successes in persuading the U.S. food industry to treat its animals more humanely.
Fast food chain McDonald’s Corp. earlier this month said it would work to phase out the use of gestation crates.
The Humane Society said 70 per cent of the U.S. pork industry confines its pregnant pigs to the crates, which are banned in the European Union and eight U.S. states – including California, Ohio and Michigan.
Sows are often confined in the crates – which are typically too narrow to allow them to turn around – from just before the birth of their piglets until the young pigs are weaned months later.
Tim Hortons is focused on expanding in its “core” U.S. markets near its Canadian base, including Ohio and Michigan.
The Humane Society said it owns 130 Tim Hortons shares, just enough to submit the proposal at the chain’s annual meeting.
Tim Hortons is facing tough competition from McDonald’s, which has been renovating Canadian stores, promoting its coffee and introducing espresso drinks. For its part, Tims has beefed up its menu with items like lasagna casserole.