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Supermarket retailing: a win for humane treatment of animals

February 1, 2011

Buried in a Financial Review article today about the revival of Coles is the very, very exciting news that the retailer is taking a lead in forcing the pace of humane and healthy practice in agriculture.

First comes beef without hormone growth promotants (HGPs). According to the paper about 40 per cent of the 7.5 million head of cattle slaughtered in Australia each year are raised using HGPs. I hope that’s triggering a round of projectile vomitng: like you, I don’t want to eat meat with hormones. Coles on its own buys about 350 000 head of cattle a year, and so is pulling in 20 per cent of the non-HGPs stock available on the domestic market.

This is going to drive a change in farmyard practice. This is exciting.Coles is also negotiating with the pork industry so that in Coles supermarkets by 2014 there will be no pig meat grown using sow stalls. This is the cruel incarceration – in barred metal crates – of breeding sows from their 16th week of pregnancy. Coles has also said it would work with its suppliers to mitigate any cost increases to customers.

This too is a milestone.

Coles Managing Director Ian McLeod is reportedly moving to stop Coles selling eggs from caged chickens, to be implemented by 2013. Reportedly he has already pushed down the price of free-range eggs to bring them level to the price of caged-fowl eggs. It follows a decision from Woolworths in 2009 to phase out battery eggs from its private label range.

Market pressure is the ultimate in getting a change from cruel, chemical-dependant farming practice.

If you want to add pressure to these changes, visit the Voiceless website. Voiceless is an organisation advocating on behalf on animals. I am a strong supporter.

  1. Leeroy permalink
    February 1, 2011 2:06 pm

    Me thinks it is worthwhile for anybody interested in Bob’s comments to watch the DVD “Food Inc”. Whilst not a Greenie by any stretch of the immagination, I welcome better health through the food we eat under the domination of our Supermarkets with better living conditions for the animals we prefer to eat that are slaughtered. Maybe only then can we help to start the education of our obese youth. I would prefer to walk through a shopping centre and not be faced with ” no mother – no mirror”. Bouquets to Coles….

  2. February 1, 2011 10:16 pm

    Woohoo! this makes me very happy! 🙂

  3. February 2, 2011 10:41 am

    Thank you so much to Bob Carr for raising this issue.

    I agree that retailers like Coles and Woolworths are finally realising that animal protection is the next great social justice movement. If they don’t reflect the growing public sentiment that animals must be treated humanely in farming systems, they will lose brand credibility.

    Although their small steps in the last couple of years have been meaningful, we should look to the UK for real progress. Voiceless has kept track of these inspirational moves abroad particularly in regards to battery hens, an infamously cruel industry.

    In 2009 Sainsbury’s, the third largest supermarket chain in England, stopped selling battery eggs. This had a direct result in that half a million hens would be no longer kept in cages.

    Three major retailers followed their lead including Asda, Tesco and Morrisons. Other big retailers Marks & Spencer, Waitrose and the Co-op also refused to continue using battery eggs ahead of a European Union ban on the keeping of egg-producing hens in battery cages from 2012 with Morrisons committing itself to ensuring 100% of its own brand eggs are cage free by last year.

    Woolworths and Coles have a long road ahead of them. Voiceless hopes that they will take positions of leadership. But in reality, the more consumers send a message by “voting with their wallets” that factory farming is unacceptable, retailers will realise the market value of compassion.

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