Farewell from Grass

Grass Consumer Action was formed in late 2011 by a group of conscious consumers who were concerned about the lack of transparency in the South African food chain. Our combined investigation was the misleading Woolworths dairy labels.
Grass has been actively working for food transparency by engaging with retailers, food producers, farmers, government, particularly DAFF and networking with other like-minded food groups to encourage positive change in our dysfunctional food system.
The remaining co-founder members of Grass are sadly disbanding, below are our final messages as Grass members to you.

From Elisa Galgut
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.

From Sonia Mountford
GRASS and Farm to Fork
My first exposure or awareness around food concerns was while visiting in Sri Lanka after floods and discovering the politics around Food Aid. I also began to question the amount of nutrition in imported foods that had been radiated while I was living in the Middle East and there I began to seek out locally produced food markets which I believe is one of the solutions to providing fresh and more nutritious food produce for all.
As a co-founder of Grass Consumer Action and the only full time member, I spent four years researching the dysfunctional food system in South Africa, investigating, questioning and exposing misleading claims. Although my interests range from food politics to toxins in our food, including harmful ingredients in processed foods and Big Food influence; I soon came to realize that the most important part of the food journey begins on farms. For that reason I spend much of my time visiting farms, learning and talking about constraints and concerns in production methods with farmers. I am passionate about nutrition and believe higher animal welfare farming practices are not only necessary for ethical reasons but also for human health. Our organic and smallholder farms are the future for nutritious food.
After spending so much time uncovering the many concerns in our dysfunctional food system, I feel it is time to direct my attention to where the positive energy lies. For me that is amongst the people that I have had the privilege of meeting and working with over the years. These are the people and groups that are diligently working to bring real food and food sovereignty to South Africans who are the real food heroes.
So I am re-sprouting to EATegrity. If you wish to know more about EATegrity “Helping You Find Integrity in the Food Chain” then please email soniam@eategrity.co.za or visit the website www.eategrity.co.za to find out more.
Thank you for all your support over the years, the comments, the food talks and the passion you have inspired in me to continue this work and remember: HEALTHY SOIL = HEALTHY PLANTS = HEALTHY HUMANS

From Wendy Hardie
GRASS and Retailers
 A largely ‘voiceless society’ in South Africa, due to apartheid and an era of exclusion, has been transformed into a society currently showing increased ethical purchasing intentions. (2008 UNISA study on Ethical Consumerism)

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 ethicalfoodsa@gmail.com

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


Helping you find integrity in the food chain soniam@eategrity.co.za

6 comments on “Farewell from Grass
  1. Thank you so much for all your time and effort put into making us become “ethical, compassionate and informed consumers”. You have assisted me tremendously….am definitely looking forward to hearing further from EATegrity! So grateful and happy that there are people like you around !


  2. Yvette Worrall says:

    I only connected with your site this year, but would like to say that I have found it clear and fact-based yet obviously prompted by profound moral compassion. Thank you for sticking with the difficult and very demanding efforts you have made – and your courage in the face of corporate arrogance and no doubt – condescension. You have imbued me with renewed energy to keep asking the irritating questions – of managerial staff on the shop floor. There are no doubt still many creative ways to ‘skin a cat’ – to use a very un-vegan metaphor!

    Many thanks,

    and I shall follow EATegrity with alacrity.

    Yvette Worrall


  3. Hendrik Mentz says:

    Since being introduced to you via your Twitter account, I’ve been grateful for the work you have done on behalf of animals, the earth and us within nature. I’ve been inspired by your selflessness, relieved at your uncanny sense of homing in on the nub of any particular issue you tackle, and your tenacity yet fine sensitivity with respect to the person or persons with whom you are engaging. So I’m naturally concerned about the future of your work and relieved that all three of you seem committed in your own ways to continuing what you have been doing. However, people like you are in short supply so be careful of burn out, as we all need you (and one-another).


  4. Rob Small says:

    I am sad to read this. The GRASS founders are people of the highest integrity. With enormous courage ,on a shoestring, they have helped to raise consciousness among a stressed, conflicted and sleepy consumer population another key notch higher. Every notch counts, more than tens of trillions of money units.

    Just a thought: Nature/Animals and Human Beings truly do serve each other. Human Beings are treasured by Nature and Animals and there are Human Beings (like the GRASS founders) who treasure Nature and Animals. The Vegan impulse is among the purest expressions of this wish to treasure .

    But there are also other food and agriculture systems which – even while consuming animal products- very deeply and truly revere and respect Animals and Nature and Human Beings as an evolving whole – in every aspect of their beings – especially when it comes to eating meat and other animal products and with regard to the way Human Beings inter-relate with each other and Nature. This stream sees Nature and Human Beings as one evolution- if Human Beings cease to exist, Nature loses its meaning. If Nature ceases to exist, Human Beings lose their meaning. In short, not all food and agriculture systems that involve Animals and the use of Animal products are destructive.

    With much love and profound respect

    Rob Small


  5. ilaidlaw@telkomsa.net says:

    A big thankyou for all the important work you have done, and for this wonderful “goodbye” letter. I will continue to follow you on the net, and wish you only good things for the future. Greetings, Karen Laidlaw Cape Town.


  6. Thanks for all the great work you’ve all done.


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