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AUSTIN, Texas -- Whole Foods Market here said Friday it will stop selling live lobsters effective immediately, after deciding that the current lobster supply chain process does not meet the chain's requirements for humane treatment of animals.
"Although we discovered significant improvements are possible from capture up to in-store tank conditions, we are not yet sufficiently satisfied that the process of selling live lobsters is in line with our commitment to humane treatment and quality of life for animals," said Margaret Wittenberg, v.p. of quality standards for Whole Foods, in a statement. "At this time, we believe it is too difficult to maintain consistent conditions throughout the entire supply chain to ensure the health and well-being of lobsters outside their natural environment for such a long period of time. Many lobsters are held in storage facilities for several months."
The retailer said it will only sell frozen raw and cooked lobster products, sourced from suppliers meeting specific quality standards for humane treatment, handling, and processing.
"If at some time in the future we become convinced that sufficient improvements are possible in the handling of live lobsters to ensure humane treatment throughout the supply chain, we will consider resuming the sale of live lobsters at Whole Foods Market," Wittenberg said.
The chain for months has been publicly mulling whether it could find a more humane lobster supply chain. In November 2005, it assembled an internal task force to review every step of its live lobster procurement process, in an effort to improve conditions for the lobsters. It set a deadline of June 15, 2006 to determine whether or not it would continue to merchandise live animals. Whole Foods said the chain's team evaluated the biology, natural environment, behaviors, and needs of the animals, and assessed every step from traps and transport, to in-store tank design and take-home cooking instructions.