(Reuters) - The head of the Humane Society of the United States is running for a seat on the board of Tyson Foods Inc, the latest move by the largest U.S. animal protection group in its bid to stop the use of confining stalls for housing pregnant sows.
Humane Society President and Chief Executive Wayne Pacelle will urge Tyson, the nation's largest meat company, to commit to a time frame for eliminating the use of gestation crates, the group said on Tuesday.
The animal protection group already has secured such promises from companies ranging from meat producers like Smithfield Foods Inc, Hormel Foods Corp, ConAgra Foods Inc and Hillshire Brands Co to restaurant operators and major grocery sellers.
Activist investor Carl Icahn has agreed to advise Pacelle in his campaign but has warned that the fight will be difficult, the society said.
The move announced on Tuesday represents an escalation of the Humane Society's efforts to use shareholder advocacy to pressure food and agriculture companies to change their practices, according to the group, which holds more than 300 shares in Tyson.
"We're not surprised Wayne Pacelle wants to sit on our board," said Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson, who added that the company is handling the nomination according to the law and company by-laws.
"We're committed to humane animal treatment and expect the same from the independent family farmers who supply us with chickens, hogs and cattle," Mickelson said, reiterating previous statements from the company.
Gestation crates are typically metal enclosures, about 7 feet long and 2 feet wide, in which a breeding sow is housed for much of her adult life.
Reporting By Brad Dorfman; Editing by John Wallace, Gerald E. McCormick and Tim Dobbyn