Coles fundraising plan bagged

30 May, 2013 08:15 AM
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89
 
We need Australian consumers to get behind all of their food producing sectors in a hurry

FARM groups and graziers are outraged Coles is considering a new proposal to sell shopping bags on behalf of Animals Australia.

They fear the funds could be used to back further campaigning efforts designed to undermine the Australian livestock industry and say the group’s agenda is “blatantly anti-farming”.

Coles selling shopping bags in-store to help raise funds for Animals Australia would be a “direct kick in the face” for Australian primary producers, according to Queensland grazier Russell Lethbridge.

Mr Lethbridge joined forces with two other Queensland cattlemen for urgent industry crisis talks in Canberra this week, supported by firebrand Independent MP Bob Katter.

They are calling for direct policy action that needed doing “yesterday” to resolve an industry crisis, including animal welfare, that’s partly being blamed on the government’s snap suspension of the live cattle trade to Indonesia two years ago.

But the grazier was angered by news Coles had confirmed the controversial proposal with Animals Australia was under consideration, despite the activist group’s central role in orchestrating the ban and ongoing calls to end it.

“That would be a direct kick in the face to the people Coles deals with and grows product for on a daily basis,” Mr Lethbridge said.

“Where the heck do you think Coles gets its beef from?

“They get it from us.

“When the capacity of the Australian beef industry has been reduced, and that’s what we’re talking about, an exodus of an industry that’s not been seen in Australia before, I wonder where the product will come from then?”

Coles spokesman Robert Hadler confirmed the supermarket giant was considering the proposal.

He said Animals Australia had supported Coles’ sow stall-free pork and cage-free egg initiatives and their joint work to promote sow stall-free pork may include selling an Animals Australia shopping bag, similar to a recent Landcare promotion.

Mr Hadler played down concerns about potential links between the shopping bag promotion and other agendas to undermine agricultural farming systems.

“The partnership with Animals Australia and other community groups gives Coles an opportunity to listen as well as provide information to them about the practical supply chain issues that need to be managed,” he said.

“This allows us to work through issues in a way that helps farmers adapt to community expectations."

The move has also raised the ire of the National Farmers Federation (NFF).

“While we understand retailers may wish to find a point of difference in their marketing, we are extremely disappointed Coles would consider partnering with an organisation that is blatantly anti-farming, openly promotes veganism and is actively working to stop animal agriculture,” the NFF said in a statement.

“On behalf of Australian farmers, many of whom supply Coles, we’re looking for an explanation.”

Australian Farm Institute director Mick Keogh also expressed concern, noting Animals Australia was strongly opposed to Australian livestock production and associated industries, not just live exports.

He said the idea of joint fundraising efforts through Coles’ retail stores raised “very serious doubts” about the sincerity of other programs the supermarket operated to promote positive outcomes for Australian agriculture and promote consumer understanding.

“For Coles to simply align with them flies in the face of other programs and advertising that supposedly supports the farm sector – there’s no other way to look at it.”

Another one of the graziers joining Mr Lethbridge and Barry Hughes for the Canberra crsis meetings, Rob Atkinson, expressed bitter disappointment at the Coles and Animals Australia alliance.

Mr Atkinson said the Coles consideration was “just a kick in the guts” and ill timed.

“I think of Coles like the dairy farmers do with the $1/litre milk,” he said.

“I wouldn’t be walking through Coles’ front door in too much of a hurry if they start fundraising for Animals Australia.”

Mr Atkinson urged Australian food consumers to stop and listen to what producers had to say about their own industry and its values, rather than rely on information from an activist group.

“This is an industry in peril,” he said.

“We need Australian consumers to get behind all of their food producing sectors in a hurry, big time, beef and dairy, it doesn’t matter what it is there needs to be big change.

“We all need food to survive but the Australian food consumer needs to take a long hard look whether they want to give their families the clean green products produced by their farmers in Australia every day or get it from an unknown quantity offshore because that is where we are headed.”

However, Mr Hadler played down concerns about the negative perception of Animals Australia among the nation’s farmers, after the group’s key role in orchestrating the federal government’s snap suspension of the live cattle trade to Indonesia in June 2011.

“The Coles and Animals Australia partnership on sow stall-free pork is a specific initiative that has nothing to do with the broader Animals Australia agenda,” he said.

“We are confident we are engaging constructively with key community groups and listening to the views and working with them to achieve common objectives that our customers support.”

Mr Hadler said Coles had encouraged farm organisations to engage constructively with Animals Australia and see them as a partner, not an enemy.

Opposition agriculture spokesman John Cobb believed Coles would trial Animals Australia supermarket bags in about 50 stores, and said the move was a “disgrace”.

“Coles needs to call off the stunt and send a clear message that they back Australian farmers.”

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READER COMMENTS

Over the Hill
30/05/2013 11:25:22 AM

AA are anti meat. They have a vegan agenda.
Janelle
30/05/2013 11:26:50 AM

If Coles is claiming to be factory farming and cruelty free, wouldn't they be opposed to feedlot finished stock? Are they going to supply only pasture finished beef? That might not be convenient enough for their nonsensical stance. I bet they gloss over that one.
J Fearnley
30/05/2013 11:33:36 AM

Animals Australia has been clear about its desire to end all consumption of animal products this includes meat, dairy and eggs. It also extends to the use of any animal product for any thing. To support Animals Australia in any way is to undermine all primary producers. It also undermines wool producers. I suggest that those who consider supporting anything AA do, they educate themselves on AA, its purposes & its radical tactics. We should support Australian farmers not further undermine them. Another reason we no longer shop at Coles.
KJ Greene
30/05/2013 11:35:36 AM

How refreshing to see a major retailer showing leadership in this area and reflecting the sentiment of most Aussies who also believe that factory farming needs to go! Mr Hadler offers some very sound advice. Working with those who are at the forefront of the rise in community awareness and concern for animal welfare is a very smart move. If the likes of Cobb chooses to 'fight' the anti-factory farming movement he will end up needing to fight the majority of Australians along with it...
Dalby
30/05/2013 11:52:53 AM

Wesfarmers is no more a farmer owned company than GrainCorp is a farmer owned company. They showed their lack of any care for farmers many years ago (circa 1980) in WA when they used muscle to get control of the fertiliser co-op the farmers owned. Wesfarmers are just another huge conglomerate using their muscle and critical mass to make increasing profits from anyone smaller and weaker than themselves as either a supplier or a customer. Not putting them down for that, just stopping anyone from getting too starry eyed about them. They are acting for shareholder profit first.
Wendy
30/05/2013 11:53:38 AM

To support Landcare is not the same as supporting AA. AA is a political lobby group who are not just against 'factory farming' but against all meat farming. Landcare is an organisation that is involved in caring for the environment and is supported by the majority of Australians. Supporting Animals Australia would be seen by all farmers as a kick in the guts, perhaps they could make their bags to support Australian Child Protection Alliance, possibly showing love and care to our children will help them to understand how to love the other creatures we share the earth with.
sus
30/05/2013 12:10:38 PM

AA is sitting on over $2 million from public donations and gov grants and has not physically helped a single animal. Their agenda is to remove all animals and their products from Aust diets and the more gullible of the public hand their dollars over. Coles, your intended support of this "charity" is deplorable and yet another kick in the guts to Australian livestock producers. Let's hope your overseas suppliers can match our high standards of production, cause that will become your only option. How about Red Cross or Salvos or Care Flight or Angel Flight or Blaze Aid or SES or........
Dirty Redneck
30/05/2013 12:12:00 PM

I see, so Coles is hitching up with the mentally deranged AA mob. Will they stop selling meat now? I doubt it.
country all the way
30/05/2013 12:27:22 PM

Sallie - get real! why is it that farmers are getting the blame for all of this? Farmers are under strict guidelines to sell healthy cattle/sheep. If any of them have marks/cuts/blood etc they are not allowed to be sold plus the list goes on. Farmers need horses and dogs in tip top condition to be able to work. So tell me how this is STILL farmers' fault. I certainly won't be going to Coles again if they do bring this in. So sick of people being so judgemental - what makes you better than farmers sitting in your a/con room all day using that much power destorying the environment?
Mack
30/05/2013 12:30:22 PM

John Cobb couldn't be more wrong and his reaction is sadly misinformed. Bravo to Coles for taking on board the issues that consumers see as important. What is wrong with working in partnership with groups that seek to better the welfare of farmed animals - the supermarkets are getting hit in the hip pocket by those consumers who wish not to tolerate factory farming when there is a better way. As for those who think Coles lacks common sense in this decision - quite the contrary. Animal welfare is something the majority of the farming industry should wake up to. Their consumers certainly have.
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