Coles has responded to the social media backlash from farming groups by withdrawing from sale shopping bags supporting Animals Australia.
The Coles’ campaign ignited anger among farmers who threatened to boycott the chain over its support for the organisation.
Animals Australia and the National Farmers Federation have been embroiled in a clash the last week over the Coles' shopping bags. Although Coles said it has received thousands of messages of support for the initiative, it has agreed to withdraw the bags from sale.
In a statement released in the last hour, Coles said:
“Coles has welcomed the large number of community members supporting its push for improved animal welfare standards but has accepted an offer by Animals Australia to withdraw its limited range of "Making it Possible" shopping bags from sale. Up until the close of business yesterday, Coles had received thousands of supportive Facebook posts and hundreds of individual e mails supporting its campaign for sow stall free pork and an end to caged chicken eggs.
"However, Coles was concerned that the good work with our farmer suppliers in the pork and chicken industries would be over shadowed by farmer reaction to the Animals Australia campaign on live cattle exports and has therefore agreed with the offer to withdraw its shopping bags.
"Coles remains committed to improved animal welfare because its customers place a high priority on better farming standards and will continue to work with community groups who have a legitimate view about these issues along with our farmer suppliers."
Animals Australia said it asked Coles to withdraw the 'Make it Possible' shopper bags from their stores to bring to an end to the vicious campaign launched by the National Farmers Federation against Coles and Wesfarmers.
Animals Australia campaign director Lyn White said: “It is a dark day for animal welfare in this country when a retailer’s support for an animal welfare initiative is vehemently opposed by the farming lobby.
“This decision was not made lightly but in the midst of this distracting attack, the animals at the heart of this issue were being disregarded and forgotten. We also could not stand by and watch an act of generosity from Coles be turned against them.
“It is one thing for these groups to defend the live export trade, but to actively oppose a public initiative encouraging consumers to use their purchasing power to get laying hens out of cages and a better quality of life for pigs and meat chickens in this country is deplorable.
“Their routine PR defence of the live trade is that they can improve welfare in importing countries, yet they are actively opposing attempts to do so in their own.
"It is not Coles or Animals Australia that are the true victims of these concerted attacks – it is the 500 million animals raised annually in factory farms who are relying on consumers becoming informed about their plight and making kinder choices."