LOS ANGELES: Whole Foods, a purveyor of high-end organic and free-range groceries, is raising the ire of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) after a vigilant shopper noticed the store using rodent traps in a manner deemed cruel by the organization.
"We have strong mixed feelings about doing anything against Whole Foods," said PETA campaign director Bruce Friedrich, pointing out that the store is vegetarian-friendly. "But this is overt, in-store abuse of animals."
PETA this week created a website at www.wholefoodshurtsanimals.com and sent out e-mail action alerts detailing the matter, as well as contacting media outlets with the story.
Friedrich said Whole Foods originally agreed to replace sticky glue traps with live-catch traps that allow rodents to be removed unharmed. However, a shopper at a Boulder, CO store subsequently found one of the new live traps in which a mouse had been left to starve to death because the trap had not been checked in a timely manner.
"They moved away from sticky glue traps and put in humane traps, but they become inhumane if you don't check them," said Friedrich. "I remain flabbergasted that any corporation would find it acceptable to cause any animals to have such gruesome deaths from starvation and dehydration."
Along with managing better mousetraps, PETA is also protesting the grocery chain's standards for farmed animals, especially ducks and veal. PETA has been trying to pressure Whole Foods for over a year to adopt stricter standards for their meat suppliers, including provisions for unannounced third-party inspections of meat facilities. Safeway, Burger King, McDonald's, and others have recently adopted such standards, but Friedrich said Whole Foods has not.
PETA is specifically protesting a particular brand of duck whose producer routinely cuts the bills off of live animals. Both Trader Joe's and Wild Oats, two of Whole Foods' competitors, have stopped purchasing the brand until stricter standards are adopted, but Whole Foods continues to stock the products.
"They refuse to do it," said Friedrich of adopting animal welfare guidelines.
"When you talk to the people at Whole Foods they seem very authentic, but the action just doesn't follow the words."
In May, PETA called off a campaign targeting Safeway over similar animal-farming issues after the chain agreed to stricter standards, becoming the first major grocer to do so. That PETA effort included demonstrations and store boycotts, tactics Friedrich said may eventually be used against Whole Foods.
"It's certainly in the realm of possibility," he said. For now, PETA will delay further action against Whole Foods for about a month in the hope that the chain will open a dialogue. "We want this to be a wake-up call," said Friedrich.
Whole Foods did not return calls for comment.