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.”

Date: Newest first | Oldest first


31/05/2013 3:28:28 PM

My son's a chef in Brisbane and he reckons this will blow up in Cole's face. Everybody down there calls Lynn White " that crazy lady " and they've had a gutful of her antics. It seems she may have overplayed her hand.
tofu and 3 vegs
31/05/2013 4:15:57 PM

The NFF and other ag groups need to remember that there is more to farming than cattle, sheep and pigs. What about fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and beans? Producers of non meat products will reap the benefits of this campaign. What's wrong with that?
31/05/2013 6:01:31 PM

How far does the beef producer's responsibility to their stock have to stretch? Who else is responsible for production after it has left their hands and ownership through sale? Will it be taken a step further and responsibility for how it's cooked or who eats it or how it's stored also be laid at the feet of the Oz producer? That's how extremist this whole situation appears.
31/05/2013 6:39:14 PM

As a Coles shareholder and customer I do not agree at all with them dealing with groups like AA.If I see one of these bags in our local Coles store,then they have lost my family as customers.We have an Aldi store,so that's where we will shop.
31/05/2013 6:45:31 PM

I would have thought Robert Hadler would have been too astute to get sucked in by a radical mob like AA. How wrong one can be.
1/06/2013 11:37:16 AM

Our family and friends can't wait to buy as many Coles bags as possible -- knowing Animals Australia will benefit from our purchases. Thanks Coles and AA for your interest in animal welfare.
1/06/2013 3:35:41 PM

Tofu, you seem to have forgotten about your brethren ENGO groups who are doing their best to shut down irrigation, So sorry, but there won't be any of those industries anyway, Thats apart from the bang up job the duopoly are doing at pricing those industries out of existence so they can import. Any other bright ideas?
1/06/2013 5:18:13 PM

Coles has really bagged this one with their contribution to sell 'Make it posible' bags to help Animals Australia in their campaign to bring an end to the extreme cruelty of factory farming and I applaud Coles for this support.
2/06/2013 5:20:41 PM

Animals Australia hate anyone & everyone who makes financial gain from all animals. Full Stop. Not one person in their organisation has relied on any form of animal raising to feed their families. I doubt Coles would except any deal done with AA. Coles are tough cookies to deal with, they have to be, too maintain their business model. But they are not stupid. All this hoo-haa is the media trying to milk another big hoo-haa out of our industry.
2/06/2013 7:21:55 PM

Should we be supprised at all by this move by Coles. Be it $1 milk or live export. After all Coles and/or Animals Aust are both doing their best to damage and destory Australian farmers.
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