It is undeniable in today’s world that there is widespread mistreatment of animals that are bred for food. Often hidden behind misleading packaging labels, the victims of this industry are overlooked and forgotten. Our mission at Crate Free Illinois is to reduce the suffering endured by these minimally protected animals. One of our top priorities is to advocate for the ban of gestation crates, tiny metal enclosures to which pregnant pigs are confined during their pregnancy cycle, in the production of pork.
In 2018, we had a successful campaign getting Trader Joe’s to publicly announce a timeline to phase out the use of gestation crates in its supply chain. This was another positive step towards a more humane food industry. Last year, we asked Aldi to go 100% gestation crate free as part of our mission to improve the lives of animals raised for food. Since then, our Aldi campaign has gained over 346,000 supporters, and Aldi has updated its animal welfare policy to say it expects its suppliers to transition away from crates.
The amount of support received for both of these campaigns reinforces the need for change, so we can’t stop there! Costco is the next key retailer that we believe needs a closer look in our fight for the more humane treatment of pigs and the phasing out of gestation crates.
As the second largest retailer in the world, Costco’s impact on animal welfare is exponential considering their global market and the major pork producers from which they purchase their product.
In 2012, Costco pledged to phase out the use of gestation crates within their supply chain by 2022. Costco shared their plans with their pork producers as a first step towards the transition away from gestation crates. Despite this, Costco’s pledge falls short in protecting mother pigs for their entire pregnancy cycle because its major suppliers will still confine sows in tight and immobilizing gestation crates during the first six weeks after impregnation. Our campaign aims to call out the inconsistency between this entrenched practice and Costco’s commitment to have all pigs in their supply chain housed in groups by 2022. Plus, Costco’s publicly available letter to its suppliers claims that pigs should have “adequate room to turn around” while in maternity pens.
In response to a video exposing gestation crates used by one of their pork suppliers, Costco’s Vice President of Quality Assurance and Food Safety, Craig Wilson, stated “… we’re continuing to work with our vendors to make this gestation crate issue better, make it better for the animal, we’re going to get better quality pork, it’s better for everybody and the industry gets it.”
Costco Shows Previous Concern for Animal Welfare
This statement is not the only case in which Costco has responded positively to animal welfare concerns. In 2012, Mercy for Animals organized an undercover investigation of a major pork supplier for Costco, Walmart, Safeway, Kroger, and Kmart. This prompted Costco’s 2012 announcement that they would soon require their producers to eliminate gestation crates. In 2015, the Humane Society led an undercover investigation into Costco’s egg suppliers and exposed the horrible living conditions to which the hens were subject. Following this investigation, Costco released an updated commitment to source only cage-free eggs.
In addition to the animal welfare responses above, Costco’s animal welfare mission statement is, “Costco Wholesale is committed to the welfare, and proper handling, of all animals that are used in the production of products sold at Costco.”
Similarly, Costco supports five animal wellbeing freedoms:
- Freedom from fear
- Freedom from discomfort (right environment, shelter and a place to rest);
- Freedom from thirst and hunger
- Freedom to exhibit natural behavior*
- Freedom from pain and suffering
*Confining pigs in gestation crates and denying them the ability to perform natural behaviors such as stretching, walking, or even turning around does not align to Costco’s animal welfare mission statement that animals used in production will have the “freedom to exhibit natural behavior.” Isn’t walking a natural behavior?
Why is our fight so important?
Gestation crates are cruel and inhumane. They confine mother pigs to small, metal cages without any bedding for the duration of their pregnancy cycles. The areas are so small that the pigs cannot even turn around. Moreover, the mother pig is transferred to a farrowing crate to give birth and nurse before she is shortly returned to a gestation crate for yet another pregnancy cycle. This cycle of confinement continues for the duration of her life.
Asking the world’s second largest retailer to commit to banning the use of gestation crates for the first six weeks after impregnation − an entrenched practice of the major pork producers − will be a huge step forward in the fight for a more humane food system. As large companies make this commitment it will be felt throughout the supply chain, positively impacting other retail and restaurant brands.
Sign the Petition and ask Costco to go completely crate free!
Although Costco says all of its suppliers will be crate free by 2022, the fact that mother pigs are still confined for the first part of their pregnancy cycles by their major suppliers seems to be conveniently “overlooked”.
Please join our campaign! Sign and share our petition asking Costco to fully commit to ending the use of gestation crates in their supply chain during a sow’s entire 16-week pregnancy cycle by 2022.
Please comment here and tell us you’ve signed and shared and why this is important to you!
Hana Nabulsi is a DePaul University graduate who is passionate about and devoted to improving the treatment of farm animals. She hopes to attend law school for animal and environmental rights to further support animal welfare organizations and environmental protection. She enjoys vegan baking as well as spoiling her two rescue guinea pigs.