Coles opens new war front with farmers

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Source: The Land

theland.com.au 

THE National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) has written to Coles chief executive Ian McLeod expressing concern about the retail supermarket giant’s support for Animals Australia.

As reported last week by Fairfax Agricultural Media, Coles is selling Animals Australia ‘sow stall free’ shopping bags in-store to help raise funds and awareness for the group.

The promotion started in 500 metropolitan stores on Monday, but NFF CEO Matt Linnegar said the animal rights group’s agenda is causing “serious harm to many parts of animal agriculture in this country”, and he urged Coles to seriously reconsider its position.

Mr Linnegar’s letter was also sent to the managing director of Coles’ parent company Wesfarmers, Richard Goyder.

The issue has sparked intense backlash on social media amid threats of a counter campaign – which could see Coles’ biggest competitor, Woolworths, running a similar promotion supporting primary producers who supply both organisations.

Mr Linnegar said for Coles to partner with an organisation with a stated aim of eliminating meat products from supermarket shelves, “smacks of a bit of hypocrisy”.

“It will anger many farmers across the nation, especially those who’ve been highly affected by the work of Animals Australia, for instance the ban on live cattle exports to Indonesia,” he said.

“They want to keep working to ban intensive animal production and agriculture and Coles is now supporting those objectives.

“We’re happy to keep talking to the RSPCA but it’s difficult to see what more we’d get out of discussions with Animals Australia, given their stated aims.”

Mr Linnegar said the Victorian Farmers’ Federation (VFF) wrote to Coles’ general manager, corporate affairs, Robert Hadler last week saying supporting Animals Australia “in any way, is to undermine all primary producers”.

He said Coles’ support of Animals Australia was “quite simply, a slap in the face to Australians pork producers – and indeed all Australian farmers”.

“No matter how limited the campaign, there is no doubt that this action will only serve to harm Australian farmers,” he said.

“While there is little doubt that there needs to be an improved understanding between suppliers (in our case farmers) and consumers’ changing expectations, it would appear that this initiative with Animals Australia represents more a moulding of consumer sentiment towards the views of Animals Australia than a reflection of consumer’s existing views.”

Coles’ senior executives visited Canberra this week where the controversial issue was addressed in meetings with the NFF and Coalition MPs and Senators.

Mr Hadler said the promotion started in metropolitan stores on Monday with only a limited run of 30 bags in each store, which he expected to run out “quite quickly”.

If all 15,000 bags are sold the group will reportedly raise $4,500.

Mr Hadler said the VFF asked whether Coles would also stock a farmers’ bag, which he said they will be “happy to do”.

“This has received some social media coverage and the response has been mixed with many supporting our decision, outweighing those opposed to it,” Mr Hadler said.

“We have been encouraged by the strong support from customers for the decision.

“Our customer research continues to show that the vast majority of Australians want appropriate animal welfare standards and we are pleased to be working with our suppliers to do just that.”

Animals Australia executive director Glenys Oogjes said although her group’s views differed to those of to rural lobby groups on live export, it was “profoundly disappointing to see this attack on Coles for supporting an unrelated campaign that encourages consumers to support higher welfare methods of production”.

“Consumer-driven change should be seen as a win/win as it gives producers the confidence to move to higher welfare systems,” she said.

“Claims that Animals Australia has some kind of secret ‘vegan’ agenda are nonsense and an obvious attempt to distract from the real issue.

“The goal of ‘Make it Possible’ is simply to see animals being raised in systems where they are afforded quality of life and protection from cruel treatment.

“It is both astonishing and disappointing that this hasn’t represented a point of agreement between animal welfare and industry bodies,” she said.

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