Students petition Aldi HQ in Batavia on pig policy

Grocer urged to go crate-free on pork products

BATAVIA – About a dozen university and high school students visited the Aldi, Inc. corporate headquarters in Batavia on Monday to encourage the grocery chain to change policy on the pork products it sells.

The students, along with leaders from Crate-Free Illinois, were seeking to pressure the discount grocer to buy pork only from suppliers that do not use pig gestation crates described as so confining that pregnant sows are unable to turn around.

They delivered letters to the front desk at Aldi’s Kirk Road campus asking the company to discontinue the use of the gestation crates in its pork supply chain by setting a deadline date for suppliers to abandon the practice.

“Pigs are super intelligent and should be able to express their natural behavior,” said Helen Astar, a student at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in Chicago.

“Aldi can still have a competitive price using sustainable organic suppliers,” Astar said. “People are getting more knowledgeable about what’s going on with factory farming.”

Astar wants Aldi to certify all the pork products it sells as crate-free.

Northern Illinois University philosophy student Sarah Bridgeforth said that beginning their lives inside the crates is stressful for the piglets.

While Bridgeforth describes herself as a vegan, she doesn’t expect others to give up eating pork.

“I would find a store that doesn’t use gestational crates,” Bridgeforth said. “We want pigs to be treated humanely.”

Students from Wheaton North High School delivered not only letters but a petition signed by about 70 students and faculty.

“It’s not just me, but the voice of everyone else in this movement,” said 16-year-old Stephanie Yanez, a junior at the school.

“Aldi has a big opportunity to do the right thing,” said Wheaton North health teacher Lisa Schmalz. “We’re educating young people and empowering them to use their voice.”

The letters from the students were addressed to Aldi CEO Jason Hart and sought to frame the company’s choice not only as an ethical question but as a practical business matter.

“Younger consumers are increasingly mindful of the ethical implications of their purchasing habits,” read the letter signed by Northwestern law students.

“Were Aldi to join the growing number of corporate leaders in the food industry demanding ethical treatment of animals from suppliers, Aldi would not only be doing the right thing for animals, but also for its business,” according to the letter. “Otherwise, conscientious consumers will shop elsewhere.”

The letter from the NIU students sounded a similar theme.

“We really hope Aldi will do the right thing for animals and for young customers who want to shop Aldi but feel conflicted doing so based upon concerns for animal welfare,” the letter concluded.

All of the students walked through the front entrance and into the polished lobby.

They were greeted cordially by two receptionists who were expecting the students. The corporate gatekeepers politely listened to the students, accepted their letters and assured them that their submissions would reach the CEO’s desk.

When the students asked to speak with Hart, they were told that would not be possible and it was clear that no further dialogue would take place.

Attempts by the Kane County Chronicle to obtain a comment from Aldi, including a message left with the company’s office of corporate responsibility and quality assurance, where not successful.

Leaders from Crate-Free Illinois sought to keep the focus of the visit on the students and did not enter the Aldi headquarters.

However, while first assembling in the parking outside the building, Crate-Free founder Jess Chipkin told the students that they have power.

“You are the future marketplace,” Chipkin said.