NEW YORK – The Kroger Co. is the focus of a petition urging the largest traditional retailer in the US to eliminate gestation crates in the company’s supply chain.

In 2012, Kroger issued an animal welfare policy statement to say the industry should work toward gestation crate-free pork production. But World Animal Protection is insisting Kroger develop a “...clear commitment to getting pigs out of cages for pregnancy with a timeline for implementation.”

“Kroger has the potential to transform the food industry in America by taking a clear stand to protect pigs,” Alesia Soltanpanah, US executive director at World Animal Protection, said in a statement. “Consumers care about the welfare of farm animals like mother pigs, who suffer enormously in cruel cages and barren environments. It’s time for Kroger to follow through on its promises, by eliminating cruel gestation crates in its supply chain.”

World Animal Protection created a petition for consumers to sign that calls on Kroger make what the group calls a clear public commitment to ending the use of gestation crates for pigs.

The company’s current animal welfare policy statement that is published on its website states that its suppliers must adopt best practices animal welfare standards developed in collaboration with the Food Marketing Institute and the National Council of Chain Restaurants.

“We believe this joint industry effort, with retailers and restaurants working together with leading animal welfare experts, will make more progress in the humane treatment of animals than what any company could achieve by acting alone,” according to the policy.

Kroger was among many food companies and retailers to begin the transition to cage-free eggs with plans to reach the goal by 2025.