Earlier this year I wrote about the German supermarket chain Aldi Süd and its new animal welfare supply chain policy. The animal welfare requirements in this policy go far beyond those of comparable Australian supermarkets. While Aldi Süd is the parent company of Aldi Australia, the German policy does not apply to Australia. Possibly because consumer pressure to improve animal welfare of so-called food animals is not as strong here as it is in Germany?
Now Lidl, the other major discount supermarket chain in Germany has released a “Positionspapier für den nachhaltigen Einkauf tierischer Erzeugnisse” (Position paper for the sustainable purchasing of animal products). The paper starts with a commitment to people and nature, and refers to the Five Freedoms for animals in the livestock industry:
- Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour
- Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
- Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
- Freedom to express (most) normal behaviour by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind
- Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering
People aren’t left out in the policy. Lidl expects its suppliers to commit to a code of conduct based on the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, to protect workers involved in the production of animal products.
But back to the animals. The policy applies to eggs, fish and shellfish, fresh meat and fresh poultry, dairy products, textiles and shoes. It does not apply to animal products used as ingredients (with some exceptions).
So what are the main requirements of the new policy?
- transparency about product origin on labels, the Lidl website and flyers (for fresh meat products, consumers are able to trace via a QR code the origin of the animal and see the animals’ living conditions via webcams)
- husbandry conditions above those legally required
- reduction of genetically modified soy in animal feed
- no use of antibiotics for the purpose of prevention
- no painful surgical interventions without anaesthetic (e.g. castration of pigs, dehorning of calves)
- no caged eggs; this applies also to processed foods
- phasing out of debeaking of layer hens
- no sale of endangered species of sea animals
- species-appropriate conditions for farmed fish
- no products that involve force-feeding of animals (e.g. foie gras) or live feather plucking (e.g. down feather)
- CO2 stunning of poultry
- phasing out of tethered housing for dairy cows
- no products with parts of exotic or protected animals, such as snakes or crocodiles
- no angora wool; no mulesing; no fur
- alternatives to leather are preferred in shoes
Lidl also expresses a commitment to being involved in the further development of animal welfare standards of other organisations, such as the Marine Stewardship Council.
In addition, the policy articulates an intent to further extend Lidl’s vegetarian and vegan product line.
The requirement for carbon dioxide (CO2) stunning of poultry is questionable. CO2 stunning is controversial. Footage shows how pigs in the CO2 pits are suffering – gasping for breath, thrashing around. It does not look like a humane slaughter method. Warning: the video contains distressing images. I did not find footage that shows CO2 stunning of birds.
In my view, this policy is a welcome addition to similar policies by German supermarkets. Although not perfect and in parts short on detail and timelines, it goes beyond comparable policies we have here in Australia. As one would expect, it has been welcomed by some, and being criticised by others. For example, farmers are wondering who will pay for the improved animal welfare conditions.
Lidl, if and when you come to Australia, please bring your animal welfare policy with you!