Coles fundraising plan bagged

30 May, 2013 08:15 AM
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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30/05/2013 12:48:48 PM

SUS, Animals Australia's role is to bring to the forefront welfare issues. They have ever maintained that they physically HELP animals. Factory farming is one of them. This issue has nothing to do with vegetarianism and everything to do with welfare. The only farmers who will have an issue with this partnership are those who do the wrong thing and keep their animals in such torrid conditions. Good on you Coles. You have won my vote and I'll be shopping with you! Free range meat included!
30/05/2013 1:16:11 PM

"factory farming" - Yes, it's a terrible thing to do. Maximising feed/land/utilities efficiently, maximising productivity whilst minimising an environmental requirement, well - that is just terrible. Good idea. Put an end to intensive & efficient food production. There's nothing like hardship - starvation in this case - to realign the senses!
30/05/2013 1:50:27 PM

Animals Australia is about destroying the meat supply chains irrespective of the cruelty aspect. Good grief just look at the starving cattle in North Queensland, there are hundreds if not thousands of animals dying or being shot . If they cared about animals they would not have precipitated the loss of major export markets for live and healthy animals. AA are partly to blame for the starvation of Animals in Australia. where are AA now that these cattle need tonnes of feed to survive, NOWHERE TO BE SEEN!! If I see one AA bag in Coles we will find another grocery supplier!
30/05/2013 2:01:00 PM

All those against AA and their whacky ideas need to steer clear of Coles. They have the dairy industry on its knees and no farmer or fruit or vege grower in Australia is doing well so we may as well pull together for a ban on Coles. Hope all the supporters of AA enjoy eating imported products as that is what will be on their shelves very shortly, not only meat but all products.
30/05/2013 2:21:15 PM

Sallie & the nutters out in force. Poke a AA member & they just love to lecture on how much water a kilo of beef needs. Of course they are against any form of meat consumption.
30/05/2013 3:22:53 PM

What Animals Australia are pushing towards ( banning live export ) will create the biggest animal welfare issue of all times.Cattle farmers have been brought to their knees and approximately 300,000 cattle are starving from just a temporary ban, imagine what would happen if this was permanent. Animals Australia have no regard for the animal welfare. If they did they would have thought about the consequences and would now be helping farmers to deal with the oversupply. Animal Welfare is not on their agenda.
30/05/2013 3:42:35 PM

Good on Coles for supporting the great work of Animals Australia. Hopefully both live export and factory farming will be phased out over the years.
30/05/2013 5:12:12 PM

Thank you Coles --a great idea. There is far too much cruelty in farming and someone needs to stop all this cruelty. Animals Australia will help make it possible.
30/05/2013 5:34:04 PM

I agree J Fearnley, well said. AA is against the use of livestock. They don't care about animal cruelty, they have caused more than they have prevented. Coles has shown it also wants to destroy Ag in AU with their actions to date. Robert Hadler idiotic words in the printed Land show great contempt for AU farmers. NFF should not engage with AA or the RSPCA. Don't give them any leverage or legitimize what they do by working with them to destroy our industries. I stopped shopping at Coles a long time ago and hope everyone else does too.
Voice Of Reason
30/05/2013 9:27:52 PM

Firstly: Where do you currently get your food from? FARMERS. It would be great to witness what you idiots eat. I am sure most of you indulge in some form of protein or maybe not from you uninformed stupid comments. Animal welfare, like most, are only worried about the almighty dollar. Those fools that whinge and whine, eat mung Beans and Brussel sprouts. Those vegies are smarter then some of the fools that have commented today. Go speak to a farmer and say thanks for providing me with food becasue without them you would starve. Maybe that's a great alternative. Think about that when you next eat.
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