Animal welfare: In the hands of the retailer

Meat4I have no doubt many who read this will roll their eyes and write it off as another article by some random tree hugger, just as there will be others who bypass it in a shrug of self-denial under the pretence of ignorance.

The truth is I cringe in mortification for lacking the courage and in not addressing my shortcomings and apathy towards the holocaust of animal abuse over the decades on my own and fellow consumer’s behalf.

How is it we have allowed the senseless testing on animals so we might paint our face or alleviate overindulgence? How is it we turn a blind eye to the carnage in rearing high volumes of livestock to save a dollar in the supermarket with no regard to their welfare and rights?

How do we justify factory farming? Where farrowing crates [metal cages] confine breeding sows prior and post birth of piglets, so small, the mother is unable to turn around, let alone provide for her behavioural welfare. Layer hens are beak-trimmed restricted to an A4 area in windowless sheds under low light, most experience difficulty walking. Tragically the list is endless and beggars belief why supermarkets have failed to differentiate themselves from their competition in this regard.

Like everything, we decide what is acceptable on what we can get away with and husbandry is no exception. The gory details are concealed via wholesome marketing ploys and in veiling the origin of the end product from the duplicitous consumer. For we all know, the where, the how and the why, yet opt to berate others who raise the alarm of perpetrated atrocities.

Retail too has an important role to play in enforcing an improvement in the treatment of every creature. The industry is in a quandary as they contemplate, debate and plan the future of retailing whether it’s online; bricks and mortar; technology; or generations, X Y and Z.

A paltry storm in a teacup compared to the heinous crimes surrounding the mistreatment of animals. Imagine the competitive distinction of a brand where emotional intelligence, empathy and the support of meaningful life adds value not only to pets, working peers and loyal protectors but also our fragile veneer of humanity?

Retail can and must employ the same due diligence of ethical sourcing and sustainability for all, just as it is afforded to human conditions in factories around the world by responsible retailers. The producer has no alternative but to respond if they hope to remain in business and those who refuse to comply must be exposed and prosecuted accordingly. In turn, the public will rise to the occasion by championing the change through their patronage and inevitable social media pressures.

Do not believe the convenient misinformation about animals lacking emotion, feelings and expectation for those are malicious lies of deceit and per chance may be why the human race struggles to find self-enlightenment and solace. Step back awhile and look at what is really happening and not what you choose to see then summon the fortitude to make a stand for the weak frightened and abused.

I bet you don’t.

Retail might be about people for people by people, but without consideration and co-existence of life and the planet, all is irrelevant.

This article originally appeared on Inside Retail.

Dave Farrell is a retailer and writer with three decades of experience on three continents. He can be reached at Freelance Alliance NZ on [email protected]


1 comment

  1. Jan Davis posted on September 6, 2017

    I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who knowingly advocates activities that are harmful to the environment or animals. Certainly, most of the farmers I know are passionately committed to caring for their land and their livestock and to ensuring they leave the farm in a better state than it was when they moved in. David Hughes is Emeritus Professor of Food Marketing at Imperial College London. He has an unparalleled knowledge of global food issues and opportunities, and is a regular visitor to Australia. In some recently released research, he investigated consumer attitudes to ‘ethical’ food. For the purposes of this exercise, ‘ethical’ was defined as a broadly ‘green’ bundle of products marketed as organic, Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, vegetarian meat alternatives, animal welfare-friendly, etc. Importantly, Hughes makes it clear that this doesn’t mean that conventional food is non-ethical – rather, that this is a set of market identifiers. His findings indicate that, from pretty much a standing start 15 years ago, consumers in developed countries world-wide are increasingly demanding that much more is included in the food they buy than they did in the past. In the UK, consumer expenditure on ethical food and drink products increased ten-fold between 1999 and 2014. It is estimated that this sector now comprises around eight per cent of total food and drink purchases. Here in Australia, fifty five per cent of people say that they think buying locally sourced food is very important to them, up ten per cent from four years ago; and eighty five percent of people say that they prefer fresh food to be sourced locally or, at least, nationally. Hughes says that this means there is a clear message to retailers here: shopper loyalty will be higher for stores that support local farmers and businesses, support the local economy and minimise environmental impacts. So, green is the way to go. But, hang about – this is only part of the story. Hughes goes on to say that recent UK consumer surveys on food purchase patterns show that price and the attractiveness of promotions are far and away the two most important things influencing purchase behaviour, followed by quality and taste, and healthiness. Ethical/eco-friendly factors only rate at tenth place. Research undertaken in Australia shows a similar situation, with price and appearance ranked streets ahead of other factors. These apparently conflicting research results go to prove something we all know: people don’t always do what they say they will do. Consumers say they want to support local producers, and they say they buy Australian because that’s what they are expected to say. Yet, actual purchasing data clearly shows they are not walking their talk. The take out message from these research findings is that consumers are increasingly demanding more of those who produce their food. Whether it be local, animal welfare-friendly, environmentally sustainable, chemical-free or whatever, the green bar is rising inexorably. However, at the same time, those same consumers have also made it clear that they won’t pay a premium for more ‘ethical’ food. Instead, they will simply discount products that fail to meet their ever-rising expectations about the food they feed their families. This situation resonates strongly with Tasmanian farmers, who are constantly being told by people with no skin in the game that their future lies in producing high-value niche products on the assumption that returns will be higher. Whilst there are clearly opportunities in this direction, it is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Farmers everywhere today are facing continual downward pressure on returns at farm gate and rapid upward pressure on input costs. At the same time, as we’ve seen here, consumer expectations are constantly escalating. You don’t have to be Einstein to see the approaching iceberg. I leave the last word to Professor Julian Cribb, the well-known Australian science commentator. He said that we all need to “value our food a little more, demand it be produced by less toxic and more natural systems, and be willing to reward local farmers much better for growing it sustainably, with care, skill and wisdom”. reply

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