U.S. Humane Society targets Tim Hortons - Macleans.ca

U.S. Humane Society targets Tim Hortons

A movement is afoot to encourage the ‘always fresh’ company to consider animal welfare

Always fresh, but cruel?

Jamie Fine/Reuters

Gestation crates do not sound like pleasant places to be pregnant. Built for breeding sows, they are rarely larger than a pig’s body. Boxed in by metal bars, the animals often can’t lie down, or really squirm much at all. As a result, animal rights activists consider them inherently cruel. For more than a decade they’ve been pressuring pork producers and buyers to phase them out. The industry argues the crates can offer a safer environment than group housing. But activists have had some success in their fight. A full ban on gestation crates will soon be in place in the European Union; Burger King now buys 20 per cent of its pork from gestation-crate-free farms, and McDonald’s announced last month it wants all its suppliers to move away from crate-confined breeding in the near future.

Now the Humane Society of the United States is going after another target: Canada’s Tim Hortons. At an upcoming shareholders meeting, the society will introduce a motion encouraging the company’s board of directors to report on the feasibility of eliminating crate-bred pigs, as well as eggs laid by caged hens, from its U.S. supply chain. (The Vancouver Humane Society recently launched a petition calling for the same from Canadian suppliers.) The move comes after years of talks with the company went nowhere, according to U.S. Humane Society food policy director Matthew Prescott: “Taking this kind of shareholder action is always the last step for us.”

It’s been an awkward year for the undisputed king of Canadian doughnuts. Tim Hortons is in the midst of a major U.S. expansion, but the company has been without a permanent CEO to guide that push since Don Schroeder, a 20-year Tim’s veteran, left the chain under still unexplained circumstances last May. A big wash of bad publicity—like the kind the Humane Society can generate—is the last thing the company needs as it tries to establish its brand south of the border.

Tim Hortons would not make anyone available for an interview, but in a statement, a spokeswoman said the company has “been actively working with industry groups, including researchers and our suppliers, to make realistic long-term improvements in the area of animal welfare.” Prescott, however, is not impressed. “It’s absolute green-washing,” he says. “Tim Hortons’ competitors all have policies to move toward gestation-crate-free pork. But Tim Hortons can’t even say it’s moving in that direction.”


U.S. Humane Society targets Tim Hortons

  1. lt seems Maclean’s has a “thing” for Tim Hortons?? Always something negative to say. You would think a Canadian magazine would take pleasure in a truly successful Canadian business. the oppostie seems to be true. Did the editor not win their free donut during roll up the rim?

    • A truly succesful American business, I believe you meant to say.


    • So if a company employs people and makes money, they can just do whatever they want? What if a company was employing people and making profits selling human baby burgers? Or selling bombs to terrorists? The mob and biker gangs are both profitable and employ people, so they must be beyond reproach, too.

      Your argument is ridiculous.

  3. Hey Richard “dick” Warnica….We love our Tims :)
    You can keep bashing this company but you will always be a $35,000 year author

    • Which would still be about $15,000 more than a full-time 40hr/week Tim Horton’s cashier makes.

    • Please don’t include me in the “we.’ Tims coffee is about as tasty as dishwater. 

    • Don’t worry, your boss will find your comment. No more night shift for you.

  4. Thanks for writing about this. I’m actually surprised by the comments below. Do people understand that writing a news piece regarding an iconic company in our country will get readers? The article isn’t inherently negative towards Tim Horton’s, it’s simply reporting the news on a negative situation in which Tim Horton’s finds itself. Sad to see folks who are incapable of realizing this are the ones to comment. 

  5. “Boxed in by metal bars, the animals often can’t lie down,”

    You know, my father raised pigs, and looking back I remember pigs is cages with not much room to move… still, I can’t conceive of a cage designed so pigs cannot lie down. Like most animals, a pig can lie dow taking no more space that it can standing up. How on earth could it not lie down? I’d almost agree with the tree-huggers on this that we could do better, but does it require lies? Really, how could they not lie down? Unless the pigs are standing on a tightrope, they can lie down.

    I admit, maybe there is some way to raise pigs that are much crueler than the pens I remember, (about 2-3 time the size of a pig area wise), but I have a hard time understanding how a pig could live, yet not be able to drop it legs and lie down.

    • Gestation cages. Think of how a pig lies down to feed piglets.

    • Surprising that you can’t imagine this.  Pigs like down by stretching out. Their legs are so short they don’t bend at the knees if i remember correctly.  Also pigs are more or as intelligent as dogs.  They have emotions.  So give a little. They share our planet.  They deserve to live a life.

  6. Its soo tru maybe if the editor wins a donut he will be happy lol

  7. I walked out of a Tim Horton’s in Richmond, B.C. (after I had received and paid for my order), because their hygiene was atrocious.  They had one bathroom, which was covered in urine, toilet tissue and all manner of disgusting filth.  When I brought an employee’s attention to the deplorable condition of the restroom, she said “that’s not my job”.  I just wish I had taken a picture, for all to see, and posted it on Youtube.   It may be a Canadian Icon, but it does not deserve the designation. 

  8. So what in earth do ‘pigs’ have to do with coffee and donuts?

    • It’s not necessarily the “coffee and donuts” that have to do with pigs. It’s the meat and eggs used in their breakfast sandwiches and BLT’s etc. The animals that make the ingredients of the other products that TIm Hortons now sells to supply more revenue. When you’re not charging $5.50 for a cup of coffee (like Starbucks or Second Cup) it’s hard to make money unless you’re selling something else.

  9. If we have pride for such a Canadian icon why do we not expect the best from them? I don’t understand some of these comments.