Coles won’t rule out CCTV on Australian farms

Despite a barrage of requests on Twitter and emails to the Coles executive interviewed by ABC Radio, Coles has refused to rule out video surveillance of Australian farming families.

All it would say was that it has “no plans” for the cameras. It’s a remarkable turnaround given the enthusiasm for CCTV on farms so publicly expressed by one of its most senior executives on Wednesday. Either Jackie Healing was way out of line or Coles could do with a little more transparency of its own.

Seeing as the retail Goliath decided not to respond, here’s my best attempt at answering the questions Coles apparently found too hot to handle:

  1. What do you consider are the benefits of video cameras on farm?
    The presence of the cameras could lift the awareness of animal welfare, while reassuring the wider community that farm animals are well treated.
  2. Do you see any potential problems?
    A family farm is also a home and I will not have our little family watched by millions via spy cameras. Imagine CCTV on your backyard streaming live to the internet. Totally unacceptable.
  3. Do you have any concerns that practices in the best interests of animals (restraint for vaccinations or veterinary procedures, for example) could be misconstrued by viewers?
    The viewers would deserve an explanation for some of the practices they’d see. Veterinary treatment for an eye cancer, for example, could very well look like animal abuse on video.
  4. Do you anticipate Australian farmers will volunteer to host the cameras?
  5. Have you (Coles) discussed the possibility of cameras with farmer organisations? If so, what has been the response?
    I don’t know.
  6. If Australian farmers do not volunteer to host the cameras, how will Coles respond?
    I am guessing they would refuse to pay for the milk but Coles won’t say.
  7. Does Coles plan to offer education for consumers about animal husbandry practices?
    This would be critical but was not mentioned by Coles quality manager, Jackie Healing. It would be a gargantuan undertaking.
  8. Where would cameras be mounted on a typical 500-acre dairy farm?
    To be effective, they’d need to be in the dairy, the calf sheds, the yards, the ute, the quad bikes, the tractor and the paddocks. That’s around 50 cameras on my farm alone.
  9. How would the dairy supply chain need to be “remodelled”?
    If Coles does intend to follow the Tesco example, it will try to contract farmers directly, giving it incredible control over the food consumers get and the price farmers are paid.
  10. Will Coles install cameras in the food preparation areas of supermarkets?
    I suspect not.

I am hoping that, despite its silence, Coles has got the message. Please pass it on. The supermarket wants to become a superpower and it has to hear loud and clear that Australians from every walk of life reckon it’s gone too far this time.

20 thoughts on “Coles won’t rule out CCTV on Australian farms

  1. Interesting that they have an idea such as this, but refuse to reward farmers for the excellent husbandry and welfare practises they already do that are taken for granted. I asked Coles today why they didn’t pay a premium for the free range milk that is produced as standard in Australia, and no response as suspected.


    • Here in New Zealand Fonterra has phased out organic produced milk because it is too costly for the Farmer to produce despite the end products having export demand. There were insifficient Farmers who took up the organic option. In total contrast Fonterra cannot get enough Colostrum Milk where there is an unsatisfied world demand for use of Coustrom in Health Products. Fonterra collects and processes that milk in the Waikato region.


    • Great question for Coles, Emily! Still no answer? The more Coles hears from people, the better. Part of me wonders whether they have intentionally done this “fluffed” interview to gauge whether Australians will swallow these invasive tactics.


      • still no answer, just tweeted them too. i’m so angry that they are that hypocritical as to say animal welfare is important to them when they don’t give credit where credit is due. it also disgusts me that they are trying to change the rules so they can label their eggs as free range and make a handy profit for themselves, and screwing the real free range farmers over as well.


  2. I do hope Coles would be willing to fund this grand idea as Jackie’s self righteous idea seems a tad hypocritical considering their monumental price cutting exercise back in January 2011!


    • I agree – amazing that you can on one hand justify forcing farmers into desperate financial positions and then demand OTT quality standards at the same time.


  3. I suspect the lady from Coles, has little idea about the reality of farming and Australia. Seems she has a good idea of spin and gobbledegook.

    Her CV on LinkedIn reads as follows – note the typographical and grammatical errors – what follows is a cut and paste

    “Ccurrently working in Melbourne for Coles supermarkets leading a team of 100+ quality professionals in food and non food.

    My specialism is in the the development of retail private label quality, development and sustainability programmes which are differentiating, relevant to customers and commercially viable.

    I have initiated and implemented supplier due diligence, quality management and corporate responsibility initiatives to protect and enhance retail brands including positions on Health, Clean ingredients, Ethical sourcing and Animal welfare

    I have over 20 years experience in retail and manufacturing quality management and product development programmes in the UK, USA, Asia and Australia

    I take professional pride in developing effective, collaborative teams both within and outside the organisations in which I work and can effectively lead change programmes across multiple stakeholders.

    I am a strong leader, highly motivated well organised and never put off by a challenge

    team development, product safety, quality assurance, sustainable supply chains , product development”

    An admirable CV, but how far down the supply chain does she think Coles should go? Perhaps she would want to check the health of each bird whose droppings formed the guano deposit that was used to make the superphosphate used to fertilise the paddocks that grew the grass which fed the cows whose milk now sells in her stores for $1 a litre.

    Enough I say, Enough!!!!


    • I note that in her specialties ‘stakeholder engagement and relationship management’ seems to be a big gap. She may need a bit more training in this area I think.


    • Wonderful info, Old Cow Cocky. It would be far easier to monitor housed herds, that’s true.

      Yes, enough is enough and I think we need to stand up right now and say that while Coles can drive the value of milk below that of water, monitoring farming families as they go about their daily lives is a step too far.


  4. Calm down guys.

    You’re committing the ol’ straw man fallacy: setting up a preposterous argument, easily knock it down, and claim you’ve won.

    Who said anything about live streams of CCTV cameras? Who said anything about forcing farmers?

    I just had a listen to the Coles interview, and Coles’ spokeswoman says nothing of the sort. Not even close.

    She says, customers want “evidence animals well treated. If requested [video could be provided] to customers to assure trust”.

    Could. Not will. Not shall. Could.

    Really, it’s a marketing for Coles. The more it can present the home grown, stereotypical farmer meme to customers, the better it is for its bottom line.

    Coles *doesn’t really care* what happens, as long as it doesn’t look bad for the company. The CCTV is just a way to protect itself *against* welfare groups. Have a look at what happened with chicken meat supplier Baiada. Only when photos emerged of dead chickens lying next to boxes with the word Coles emerge, did the supermarket act.

    As far as I know, Coles still stocks Steggles and Lilydale.


    • I agree that it’s purely about marketing, Freddy. And Coles is serious when it talks about “remodelling” the liquid milk supply chain so it can deal directly with farmers and increase its control over Australia’s food. Jackie Healing was using Tesco as an example, which has managed to directly tie farmers into very stringent contracts, so when she uses Tesco’s requirement that abattoirs have live CCTV streaming to the internet (that she proudly says attract massive traffic) as a model for Australian farming, you can see why people here are concerned.


  5. To think that Coles is owned by Wesfarmers, which began it’s life as a farming co-operative in WA in 1914, I believe they have lost their way. Some rural producers can only use Wesfarmers as a rural supply shop, and then this treatment of Australian Farmers. Coles/Wefarmers take with one hand, and push you down with the other.


    • Coles is doubtlessly doing what it feels is right for its shareholders. It won’t work forever though. No successful parasite kills off its host.


  6. Pingback: Coles is making my blood boil | Clover Hill Dairies Diary

  7. CCTV in all abattoirs is ESSENTIAL, and acts as a deterrent. Workers cannot be trusted to treat animals properly. Just look at the acts of cruelty dished out to pigs in three piggeries in NSW, as uncovered by hidden cameras. You people here who think you are doing the right thing aren’t where the problem is. How can you speak on behalf of all the rotten scoundrels the industry employs? For your information, major supermarkets in the United Kingdom have insisted their suppliers install CCTV , and they have agreed – or lose their business with the supermarkets. Why are you people here so goddam defensive. If you have nothing to hide, then you won’t mind CCTV. Wake up!


    • Sorry, Sam, but our farm is not an abattoir.

      In respect to your “nothing to hide” argument, would you then be happy to have your backyard (complete with your children) monitored 24/7 and broadcast live over the internet to ensure you are kind to your pets?


  8. For me, there is always the concern that acts of cruelty (like some of those in the pig abattoirs in recent months) are perpetrated by “plants” paid up to $30,000 by the Animal Justice Fund which is administered by Animals Australia. Ostensibly this was set up (by Jan Cameron of Kathmandu outdoor equipment) to encourage employees to “squeal” on their employers if they see acts of perceived cruelty. There have been cases in the US of activists finding jobs in chicken farms etc & filming each other performing atrocities on the animals to try to discredit the industry, & no doubt get a payout as well. They have been caught out doing it. This could so easily happen in Australia, the door is open to encourage it.
    It is just so offensive & insulting that those of us who live, breathe, love & care for our animals every day could be suspected of being cruel criminals deserving surveillance.


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