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 8:40:39 AM

Seriously ... the fact a mob owned by a group of WA Farmers would seriously consider this proposal beggars belief --- perhaps it is time suppliers buggered up Coles supply chain by refusing to deliver fresh food for a week ...
30/05/2013 9:22:19 AM

@ Bill, probably not a good idea to "stuff up Cole's supply chain for a week'. It will give them even more reason to import cheap produce from overseas.
30/05/2013 10:16:53 AM

@Rob they haven't needed any excuses to date - however I take your point it would be much easier to picket their distribution hubs and stop all deliveries to their stores - a couple of dozers and road trains strategically placed would do the job ...
30/05/2013 10:25:23 AM

This is ridiculous terminology. By saying people are 'anti-farming' you are basically implying that they eat nothing. From my understanding, AA is anti-FACTORY farming, and I fully support that stance and hope anybody with a heart would, too.
30/05/2013 10:29:41 AM

Mr Hadler, this is not going to give a competitive edge against Woolworths. The price of the beef on your shelves is already too high in relation to what the grower gets. What would happen if the growers boycott direct contracts with you? You haven't thought this through, have you. You are deluding yourself if you think 100% of the buying public will support you.
practical farmer
30/05/2013 10:35:02 AM

Please define "factory farming". If the human race wishes to survive, it needs food every day, and we can only produce sufficient quantities by using productive, modern, safe methods. It is only affluent consumers in developed countries who can afford to pick and choose based on misguided preconceptions. Animals Australia is against the keeping of livestock for food production. Why on earth would Coles want to get into bed with a group that blatantly uses animal suffering, propaganda and half truths to put farmers out of business? Come on Coles, show some common sense for a change.
David Brooks
30/05/2013 10:43:13 AM

Coles is doing our country a big favour by leading the way in removing cruelty from animal farming. Australians don't like animal cruelty, not to a dog, pig or chicken. If these industries can't get in line with community views by themselves, I'm glad that Coles is showing them the way. Good on them for partnering with a not for profit like Animals Australia. In regards to the ridiculous claim that Animals Australia is anti farming? Where do you think the plant based foods that they promote come from? They're not against farming, they're against animal cruelty, just like Coles' customers.
30/05/2013 10:56:27 AM

Sallie, Australian beef is not 'factory farmed'. If AA really do want better conditions 4 animals they need 2 work with farmers/abattoirs & Ind 2 improve conditions 4 animals. This was the case in Indonesia where Aust beef industry was working with Indonesians 2 improve conditions in abbs. Now AA has done irreparable damage 2 our relations with Indonesia it becomes v hard for Aus Beef Industry 2 have any sway at all. Is that a good outcome 4 animals? Farmers love their animals & only want 2 see what is best 4 them-do u realise this? Go for the multinationals if u must but this is killing farmers in Aus.
30/05/2013 11:14:19 AM

Dear Practical Farmer (aka factory farmer?) - factory farming is keeping pigs and chickens indoors, in cages or in small spaces for their entire lives. Plenty of farmers make a good living without resorting to factory farming and I fully support them. The fact you needed a definition speaks volumes as to why major retailers need to take the lead on animal welfare. Keep it up Coles! You've got my support.
30/05/2013 11:21:18 AM

Supporters of AA are no doubt well-intentioned. Who doesn't want 2 c our animals treated with respect & kindness? Look deeper into AA & we find a belief of no animals 4 human consumption which is the driving force behind their organisation. Where is there evidence of animal cruelty in Australia by Aust farmers? The v emotive footage of Indo Abbat was in Indonesia, not Aust. I believe MLA was working with the Indos 4 better practices in their Abbs at the time of the ban. How is this campaign by AA helping animals? By destroying farmers who produce food ethically, responsibly & with real care. Bad job Coles.
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