BATAVIA – Aldi, a Batavia-based discount grocer, took a step toward sourcing its pork from producers who do not use gestation crates, but Crate-Free Illinois and the Humane Society of the U.S. say the policy does not go far enough to end what they say is cruel.
Jess Chipkin, founder of Crate-Free Illinois, 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.
“They are widely recognized as cruel and inhumane,” Chipkin had said in earlier comments.
Chipkin said she and Josh Balk, vice president of Farm Animal Protection for the Humane Society of the U.S. met with Aldi officials Brian Trusheim director of corporate buying and Susie Wendel, director corporate responsibility and quality assurance on Sept. 24.
In a follow-up email, Aldi stated it would update its website, Chipkin said.
"They changed their animal welfare policy to announce that, 'We expect our suppliers to pursue the elimination of crates for pregnant sows in favor of group housing,'" Chipkin said. "We appreciate that Aldi has acknowledged the problem and made this update. It represents a small step forward, but we feel it does not go far enough."
Letting suppliers know that Aldi expects them to pursue a change “is a suggestion, not an actual mandate that suppliers are required to eliminate these cruel practices if they wish to continue doing business with Aldi,” Chipkin said.
Chipkin and Balk asserted that Aldi is not offering a binding timeline to eliminate gestation crates.
“Which means producers can continue to confine mother pigs indefinitely, without consequence.” Chipkin said.
“I emailed her back that we appreciate Aldi acknowledging the problem, but we would continue with the campaign because there is more work to be done,” Chipkin said. "How they are going to communicate it (the new policy) to the buyers? How are they going to know unless they are told?"
Balk said Aldi’s policy change is a positive step, but “without a timeline, suppliers can continue to engage in this extreme animal cruelty for perpetuity.”
“There is no reason this animal cruelty should continue within Aldi’s supply chain,” Balk said. “And it especially is concerning that they can continue under this policy for perpetuity."
An Aldi spokesman replied in an email that the company "is committed to the welfare of the animals in our supply chain and we require all of our suppliers to treat their animals humanely and with dignity."
"After hearing some concerns from Crate-Free Illinois, we reached out to them so we could meet in person. We had a productive conversation and understand their concerns," according to the email. "After fully reviewing our Animal Welfare Policy, we made the decision to strengthen our commitment, which now states that we expect our suppliers to pursue the elimination of crates for pregnant sows in favor of group housing."
The spokesman did not provide a response from Aldi regarding the criticism of its updated policy, because it lacks a binding timeline to end gestation crate use by its pork producers.
The company also did not respond to emailed questions regarding how it would inform suppliers about not using gestation crates nor how it would label pork products so consumers would know they were produced without gestation crates.
Crate-Free Illinois started a petition on Change.org for Aldi customers to urge the grocery chain not to buy from pork producers that use gestation crates.
As of Oct. 31, the petition at Change.org/CrateFreeAldi, has 323,162 signatures.
Chipkin said surveys show consumers care about humane conditions for livestock and research shows eliminating the gestation crate would raise pork prices only slightly.
Aldi did not respond to an emailed question asking for the company's reaction to the petition.