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Whole Foods Might Drop Live Lobsters from Stores

AUSTIN, Tex.--Whole Foods Market here said yesterday that it is considering discontinuing the sale of live lobsters in its stores, if its current procurement system cannot live up to "more compassionate standards."

The supernatural retail chain said it has set a deadline of June 15, 2006 to assess and significantly upgrade the supply chain process to procure and sell live lobsters in a more humane way.

"Our commitment to animal compassionate standards means eliminating unnecessary and avoidable suffering when it is possible for us to do so," said John Mackey, co-founder and CEO of Whole Foods Market, in a statement. "Given all the work we have done regarding animal welfare in our natural meat and animal compassionate standards, we decided the sale of live lobsters within our stores and also their procurement conditions were appropriate to question."

The chain has assembled an internal task force to investigate alternatives for more humane treatment of live lobsters throughout the supply chain. It said the team will pay special attention to significantly reducing the time from boat to shopping cart, to avoid the long-term storage many lobsters endure after capture.

The task force will look at more humane handling and shipping methods as well as tank conditions in-store, aiming to mimic conditions of a lobster's natural habitat. If no viable alternative is found, Whole Foods Market said it will discontinue the sale of live lobsters, at least until more "acceptable humane standards were developed."

"We are viewing the lobster as a live creature rather than a commodity that deserves no concern," added Mackey. "Just because we sell lobsters and have customers who will buy them is not a compelling argument to maintain status quo."
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