Posted on June 19, 2006

Whole Foods stops selling live lobsters

Retail chain unable to ensure health and well-being of lobsters

Whole Foods Market Friday said it will stop selling live lobsters effective immediately.

"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, vice president of quality standards for Whole Foods Market.

"At this time, we believe it is too difficult to maintain consistent conditions throughout the entire supply chain to ensure the health and wellbeing of lobsters outside their natural environment for such a long period of time. Many lobsters are held in storage facilities for several months,” she said. 

For the time being, the natural and organic retail giant, will only sell frozen raw and cooked lobster products from Nova Scotia-based Clearwater Seafoods, the only supplier meeting strict handling and processing standards that place a premium on humane treatment.

Whole Foods also said it will stop selling live soft shell crabs.

"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," Wittenberg said.

In November 2005, Whole Foods Market assembled an internal task force to review every step of its live lobster procurement process in an effort to improve humane conditions.

A deadline of June 15 was set to determine if more humane alternatives could be implemented. Evaluating the biology, natural environment, behaviors and needs of the animals, the team assessed every angle from traps and transport to in-store tank design and take-home cooking instructions.

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