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Coles opens the cage doors for its farm animals

<i>Illustration: Cathy Wilcox</i>

Illustration: Cathy Wilcox

COLES will stop selling company branded pork, ham and bacon from pigs kept in crammed stalls as well as company branded caged eggs from January, meeting a commitment by the company to phase out the factory farming practices a year early.

The announcement comes as Animals Australia, the group that uncovered the cruelty to Australian cattle in Indonesian abattoirs last year, launches a campaign against the factory farming of animals.

The campaign, which features TV ads, pleads with consumers to use their purchasing power to end the trade. The ads show pigs and chickens in squalid conditions with some animals made to look like they are singing.

"The majority of pork, egg and chicken products on supermarket shelves come from factory farms where animals are severely confined, have no quality of life and are routinely subjected to surgical procedures without pain relief,'' the campaign director, Lyn White, said.

"Many of the practices inflicted on chickens and pigs in Australia would be cruelty offences if inflicted on dogs or cats. This simply cannot be justified when we know that all animals share the ability to suffer."

Animals Australia says laws now allow battery hens to be packed into cages where they cannot stretch their wings; mother pigs can be caged barely able to move for months on end; and chickens raised for meat have been bred to grow at three times their natural rate, causing health problems.

The organisation has written to the agricultural industry urging it to encourage members and producers to move to higher welfare systems.

Coles first made the commitment to phase out the products because of ''consumer sentiment'' in 2010. The company says 34,000 mother pigs will no longer be kept in stalls for long periods of their lives and 350,000 hens will be freed from cages.

Customers will not suffer higher prices as a result of higher production costs.

Animals Australia wrote to the National Farmers Federation chief executive, Matt Linnegar, about the campaign arguing it would give farmers interested in welfare but concerned about backlash the confidence to change practices.

''We understand that the current demand for pork, chicken and egg products cannot be met by higher welfare systems, hence the need to educate the community to eat less and pay more - ensuring that the bottom line for producers can remain positive.''

Woolworths said 98 per cent of its fresh pork suppliers operated sow stall free farms and it expects all of its fresh pork to be produced in stall free conditions by mid 2013. The company said it has already removed caged eggs from its Select brand eggs.

The Australian Egg Corporation Limited - representing 400 commercial egg producers that distribute a range of products to the local market - said banning eggs from one egg production system was misguided.

''The decision should be a consumer's, based on their personal choice and budget. Families shouldn't be manipulated by activists such as Animals Australia and retailers such as Coles," AECL managing director James Kellaway said in a statement.

Mr Kellaway said there are three recognised egg farming systems - caged, barn and free range - with caged eggs comprising 55 per cent of the retail market. Coles says free range makes up 50 per cent of its branded sales.

"Each of the three main egg farming systems has welfare strengths and weaknesses. For example, hens in cages are likely to live longer, be more healthy and are safe from weather and predators. Just like Animals Australia, AECL fully supports greater welfare outcomes for all of our laying hens but we believe science should lead the way, not emotion or self-interest.

"As such, we have invested more than $10 million over 10 years in research and development into better welfare for hens and this investment will continue," Mr Kellaway said.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story failed to specify the new measures only concern Coles-branded pork, ham and bacon products.


147 comments

  • Good for Coles! They now have a very distinct marketing advantage over their rivals. It's about time we thought of the cruelty involved in the way food is produced.

    Commenter
    Richiroo
    Location
    Possum Creek
    Date and time
    October 23, 2012, 6:38AM
    • Yes, so happy to see them use their corporate power and position to help end the senseless suffering of animals. One happy customer here, Coles!

      Commenter
      Martin
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 8:45AM
    • Let's see the results first.
      So-called free range eggs means chickens get only one square metre each at some farms
      I can more esily trust small farms doing this than big farms adjusting to the size Coles requires

      Commenter
      drovers cat
      Location
      an alleyway
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 8:48AM
    • or you could all search out and buy from butchers that buy animals that are raised ethically and sustainably. We call cant eat rump steak every day for $8kg. I rarely ate steak as a youngster and I am only 32, we had lesser cuts like corned beef and chops. In Sydney you can try Feather & Bone or Urban Food Market for ethically raised meat. F&B have only 1 producer outside NSW as well so the food miles are lower. Google sustainable producers and you will find plenty

      Commenter
      Franky
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 8:58AM
    • +1

      And our attention should also return to live exports. We hypocritically applaud this move by Coles whilst continuing to ship live animals overseas unnecessarily in deplorable conditions. Many say it will cost us jobs. I don't see it. Animals will still be reared, still be transported to ports, still loaded on boats. Wouldn't the necessity for abbatoirs close to these ports result in more jobs for Australians? And an assurance that our animals are being treated as humanely as possible?

      If NZ can do it, we should be capable also.

      Commenter
      Angie
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 9:21AM
    • Now if they would simply give farmers a better price for their products, they could pat themselves on the back for ending the senseless suffering there as well.

      Commenter
      YS
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 9:34AM
    • I'd love to see ethical milk too, where farmers agree to raise bobby calves to at least a year old before slaughtering them. I hate seeing calves as a by-product of the milk industry. I'd pay extra for it.

      Commenter
      Mandyg1
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 10:28AM
    • Drovers cat posted: "Let's see the results first.
      So-called free range eggs means chickens get only one square metre each at some farms
      I can more esily trust small farms doing this than big farms adjusting to the size Coles requires"

      Totally agree.

      At the moment, there's no definition of 'free range' for eggs. The free range industry requires 1500 hens per hectare, but it's not legally enforceable. Recently, the Egg Corporation has been pushing for a definition of 20000/hectare, which is ludicrous and deliberately misleading (http://www.ausfoodnews.com.au/2011/09/15/new-definition-of-%E2%80%98free-range%E2%80%99-eggs-causes-outrage.html).

      Stick with eggs and meat you know are truly free range until Coles labels its food clearly about how 'free range' it really is.

      Commenter
      Humanist
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 12:16PM
    • I agree, as a cattle farmer, no boats, nor feed lots, for mine. just wide open paddocks with shade, fresh water, areas to roam and run, and owners who are concerned for their welfare. I hate sending steers off to market, but as long as people want meat, then producers have to supply it. At least mine have a decent and fairly long existence. It can be done, and good farming practices bring about relaxed, healthy stock. The farming of pigs especially, must be stopped the way they are now, pigs are intelligent, and know what is going on, they should be able to live naturally, as do chickens. We got some chickens from a cage farm and it took them three weeks to learn how to walk, poor little guys. They are fine now. Onya Coles, I will now be shopping with you from now on.

      Commenter
      annie
      Location
      Hunter Valley NSW
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 12:27PM
    • I now look forward to Coles removing kangaroo meat from their shelves.

      Kangaroo populations are plummeting according to the government's own survey data (see www.kangaroosatrisk.net). In fact, kangaroos have been nominated to NSW's Threatened Species' lists on the basis of their crashing trendlines.

      Yet the media and unknowing Australians continue to repeat the kangaroo industry's mantra that there are "plagues" of kangaroos (have a look at news footage and check how many roos you see across empty farming landscapes), and that populations "explode" (biologically impossible with 3-8% population growth in good years only). The science and the data doesn't support this.

      Where is the questioning of industry-funded shonky "science", and unsupportable assertions by rusted-on "experts" who refuse to review their own basic and fundamentally wrong assumptions and invalid survey methodology?

      The evidence and data of a serious decline in kangaroos is hidden in plain sight - yet noone wants to look. How is this possible with such a serious situation? www.kangaroosatrisk.net

      Commenter
      HB2012
      Date and time
      October 23, 2012, 12:44PM

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