OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. (June 18, 2012) — Sonic Corp. (NASDAQ: SONC), the nation's largest chain of drive-in restaurants, announced plans to phase in a pork supply chain free of gestation crates—controversial cages used to confine breeding pigs that have come under fire in recent years due to animal welfare concerns.
"Sonic is actively working to eliminate gestation crates from its pork supply chain, and intends to reach that goal no later than 2022, although is working toward 2017, the timeframe several large pork producers have set to be fully-transitioned to group housing," states Sonic on the company's website. "Sonic will continue to favor suppliers that raise hogs in a gestation crate-free environment in addition to suppliers that can provide audit and tracking reports for sourcing crate-free pork."
The Humane Society of the United States supports Sonic's progress.
"Sonic has consistently shown that it takes animal welfare seriously," said Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection at The HSUS. "We look forward to working with the company to bring about a gestation crate-free future for its products."
In the pork industry, the vast majority of breeding pigs are confined day and night during their four-month pregnancy in gestation crates, cages roughly the same size as the animals' bodies, preventing them from even turning around. They are then placed into another crate to give birth, are 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.
· Since February, McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Cracker Barrel and Denny's have announced that they will eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains, as have Kroger and Safeway, the nation's top two supermarket chains, and Compass Group, the world's largest foodservice company.
· Leading pork producers Smithfield and Hormel have pledged to end the use of gestation crates at their company-owned facilities by 2017, and Cargill is already 50 percent crate-free.
· Eight U.S. states have passed laws to ban the practice and Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island have bills pending that would do the same.
· Renowned animal welfare scientist and advisor to the pork industry, Dr. Temple Grandin, is clear on this issue: "Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life." Grandin further states, "We've got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go."
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