GRASS and Veganism
By calling retailers to account, GRASS has done some wonderful work in exposing the cruelties routinely practised on farms around the country, harms and cruelties from which all the large retailers in SA, without exception, profit. By exposing not only the truth behind the advertising, but the lies within the advertising itself, GRASS named and shamed and forced some retailers to take note of the growing awareness of consumers about where their food comes from – and the growing outrage once they do find out. From a vegan perspective, though, minimal changes – which is the most that retailers seem prepared to do – are insufficient; some of us believe that as long as you have animal agribusiness, cruelties will exist – the best and perhaps the only way to farm ethically is to remove animal products from the menu entirely. This is clearly a long long road ahead, and those of us who believe that this is the ultimate goal are often in a dilemma about whether to push for changes to animal agribusiness itself, or whether to call for its abolition now. Small changes are important for the animals currently in the system, but in the long run, such small changes mollify consumers while still maintaining a system of exploitation and slaughter.
I will be assisting Sonia Mountford at EATegrity with vegan news and views.
Yet sadly, our experience at Grass over the last 4 years has shown that South Africa’s large food retailers are not ready or not willing to listen to their consumers’ ethical intentions.
In spite of the fact that The Consumer Protection Act in SA includes the right to:
- Be heard: consumers have the right to be heard on issues, policies, plans, programmes and decisions which affect them.
- Be informed: Consumers have the right to be given all the information they need about a product or service.
- Be educated: Consumers have the right to education that will empower them to make informed choices.
Between 2011 – 2015 Grass has asked the following Q;s :
1) We asked Woolworths to change their organic dairy farming practices to be 100% pasture based as their organic milk label implied. They refused.
We asked them to use an anaesthetic injection when dehorning (it is illegal not to do this in the UK). They refused.
We asked them to leave organic dairy calves with their mothers for at least 3 months, instead of which they continue to be removed after 24 hours – 3 days.
We asked the third party organic certifier in Germany for information about the farming conditions for Woolworths organic milk. They refused.
2) Woolworths issued a press release in July 2014, committing to sow-stall-free pork by December 2015. Nine months later, with no apology to their consumers, they have still not fulfilled this commitment.
Data from the UK shows that the altruistic aspirations of the millennial generation is causing consumers there to reward ethical & authentic brands and punish those that aren’t. Social networks have given millennials the tools to make their views fly too, like never before. Any brands that are disconnected from what’s happening, will lose goodwill.
Robin Wight, founder of the Ideas Foundation and chairman at Engine in the UK says “Intelligent brands have realised that there is a broader definition of stakeholders, and it includes the consumer. Listening to consumer concerns and then doing something about it, makes everyone a winner.”
So if big retailers refuse to listen to consumer concerns in South Africa, what do we do?
Alnoor Ladha, partner and head of strategy at Purpose, a consultancy for creating social movements, says : “We’ll always need commerce, but we won’t always need corporations. Smaller suppliers could listen to our needs better and deliver what we are asking for.”
Indeed this is exactly what seems to be happening in South Africa. Everywhere you look there are :
- Small farmers producing free-range and organic products, whose farm gates are open.
- Small retailers & organic box schemes with a short supply chain, who will connect you to your farmer and answer questions transparently.
- Food markets where seasonal fresh products can be bought directly from the producer.
I will be following the exciting new food movement that supports small ethical farmers, distributors and retailers, where the consumer is a key role player, and where transparency is key.
I encourage all ethical consumers to keep asking the questions Grass has been asking over the years, and to choose to buy food that has been produced in the very best way possible. And if you don’t get answers to your questions, go elsewhere until you do!
Thanks for the support!
I can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
If you have any consumer concerns, or want to share information – please go to : https://www.facebook.com/The-Conscious-Consumer-South-Africa-1493088330938677/timeline/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel