BATAVIA – Crate-Free Illinois and the Humane Society of the United States want Aldi, a Batavia-based discount grocer, to source its pork from producers who do not use the gestation crate because they say it is cruel.
Jess Chipkin, founder of Crate-Free Illinois based in Huntley, said the gestation crate – also known as a gestation stall – involves keeping a pregnant pig in a space so small it can't turn around.
“Gestation crates are widely recognized as cruel and inhumane,” Chipkin said.
She cited Aldi's animal welfare policy on their website, which states: "An animal is in a good state of welfare if (as indicated by scientific evidence) it is healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express innate behavior, and if it is not suffering from unpleasant states such as pain, fear and distress."
“It’s natural for animals to be able to move,” Chipkin said. “Most would agree that ‘innate behavior’ includes the ability to turn around.”
Chipkin said she has heard from Aldi officials in corporate responsibility who said they would meet with her and discuss her concerns sometime in September.
Josh Balk, vice president of Farm Animal Protection for the Humane Society of the United States called the gestation crates "a torture device."
“Confining mother pigs in a cage that is barely larger than their own body, where they can never turn around, does not comport with that sentiment (that) animals – including animals raised for food – deserve humane treatment,” Balk said. “Such extreme cruelty has no place in modern society.”
Messages left for Anna Steffens, Aldi senior corporate responsibility manager, and Susie Wendel, Aldi quality assurance and corporate responsibility director, were not returned.
Chipkin has taken other steps to pressure Aldi to make changes to its pork supply chain.
Chipkin has started a petition on www.Change.org for Aldi customers to urge the grocery chain not to buy from pork producers that use the gestation crate.
So far, the petition at Change.org/CrateFreeAldi has nearly 300,000 signatories, many with comments calling out the grocery chain to change its supply chain. Chipkin also urges consumers to call Aldi’s customer service line, 800-325-7894, and leave a message about the gestation crates.
“Aldi is the fastest-growing retail chain in the country,” Chipkin said. “It’s the third-largest grocery chain in the U.S. It has a lot of buying power. They remodeled their stores to make everything more green, organic and vegan for a food conscientious type of shopper. … They did ban plastic packaging. … They do consider the opinions of their customers.”
Chipkin said surveys show consumers care about humane conditions for livestock, and research shows eliminating the gestation crate would raise pork prices only slightly.