GLENDALE, Calif. (AP) — The parent company of IHOP and Applebee's said Wednesday that it will eliminate the use of gestation crates from its pork supply chain for its more than 3,500 restaurants.

DineEquity Inc. said the move is part of its commitment to animal welfare. It joins a growing list of restaurants and other food companies that are halting use of the practice over growing public concern.

Many pig farmers keep pregnant sows in the crates to reduce aggressive behavior. By using them, farmers can separate the sows from other hogs and feed them individually.

Gestation stalls have become a major target for animal rights groups. The groups say the crates are inhumane because they keep pregnant sows tightly confined, leaving little space to turn or sleep on their sides.

DineEquity said it is asking its vendors to phase out the practice. By 2020, it will only use pork products that are produced without the gestation crates.

McDonald's Corp., Burger King Holdings Inc., Wendy's Co. and others have either stopped or are moving away from the practice as well.

DineEquity said that the company and its franchisees are committed to using ingredients that are produced and sourced as responsibly and sustainably as possible. This includes practices regarding animal welfare, such as this decision and its previously announced pledge to increase the use of cage-free egg products.

The company's shares fell 37 cents to close regular trading at $72.34 but increased 4 cents in after-hours trading following the news.