Farmers and producers commenting here on Coles decision to stock hormone-free, compassionately-reared animals are worried. They say that while Coles is asking these standards from Australian producers, it is still importing processed meat from countries where humane practices are not adhered to. I will be ringing Coles this week for their comments on the Farmers’ claims. I will also gauge their response to the extraordinary, huge response I’ve had on this site to their decision.

Meanwhile animal rights group Voiceless continues to fight what it calls conflict of interest in the debate. Here Voiceless Chairman Brian Sherman again challenges Professor Ian Lean and his colleagues to justify their position on hormone-fed meat.


Brian Sherman by Ruth Ostrow

Voiceless Open Letter

In 2010 Coles announced that it would stock only hormone free beef, and phase out pork sourced from sow stalls, metal and concrete cages only slightly larger than a mothers pig’s body, in which she is individually confined for much of her productive life. Coles’ decision was in response to consumer concern for animal welfare.

In March 2011, a group of animal scientists led by Professor Ian Lean took out a full page ad in The Australian condemning Coles and saying that production methods such as hormone treated beef and sow stalls are “ethical” and “favour” the “well-being” of animals. These claims are said by him to be based on science.

We are sure the intentions of Ian Lean, Sydney University’s Adjunct Professor of Veterinary Science and MD of livestock consultancy SBScibus, are good. Nevertheless, we find it incomprehensible that Adjunct Professor Lean and his colleagues can argue, as they did in their advertisement published in The Australian, that sow crates and hormone implants are methods of production that are “ethical” and “favour” the “well-being” of animals.

We stand behind our view that these practices are fundamentally inhumane, and our view is supported by the community. As the overwhelming majority of posts to this blog show, the community clearly believes, like us, that it is wrong to subject animals to the brutality of factory farming. Leading scientific research such as that of the EU Scientific Veterinary Committee also shows, for example, that group housing systems are better for pig welfare than sow crates.

We reiterate that the ad placed by Adjunct Professor Lean and his colleagues was funded by the ‘Animal Health Alliance’, a lobby group for the veterinary pharmaceutical industry comprising companies such as Novartis, Bayer and Pfizer. It is surely obvious to the disinterested observer that the Animal Health Alliance’s core goal is commercial, that is, to grow its markets, including in intensive animal agriculture. We note that Adjunct Professor Lean is an animal agribusiness executive, and therefore also has an interest in maintaining the industry.

We note that in his letter on this blog, Adjunct Professor Lean now says he and his colleagues “support an orderly move to phase out sow crates”. Why is this, when, as they claimed in The Australian, sow crates “favour animal well-being”, and Coles’ decision to phase out sow crates in three years’ time is “bad for animals”? It is curious that Adjunct Professor Lean and his colleagues can simultaneously hold two mutually exclusive positions on this major ethical issue.

We encourage readers to visit our website at for further information on factory farming and its effects on animal wellbeing. And we refer readers to the UNSW Conflict of Interest definition