Natural and organic foods retailer Whole Foods Market has said that it has set a deadline of 15 June 2006 to assess and significantly upgrade the supply chain process to procure and sell live lobsters in a more humane way.

If more compassionate standards are not implemented by that date, Whole Foods Market will discontinue the sale of live lobsters.

"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. "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 review process will be led by an internal task force that will investigate alternatives to provide higher humane treatment standards for live lobsters throughout the entire supply chain process. The company 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 also 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 a viable alternative is not found, Whole Foods Market will discontinue the sale of live lobsters - a ban which could only be lifted by company leadership after acceptable humane standards were developed.