Vegan protesters spark debate over 'disturbing' act at Coles: 'Leave kids out of it'

A group of animal activists who stormed a Coles supermarket in Melbourne on Sunday afternoon to protest the manner pigs are farmed in the country has sparked a debate over their use of graphic imagery to get their message across.

The protesters from animal rights group Farm Transparency Project occupied the meat aisle of the city branch at Spencer Street and said they held a "peaceful" and "non-confrontational" protest at about 3.30pm to draw the public's attention to the use of cages for pigs in the animal agriculture industry – a practice that they say was supposed to be phased out in 2017.

"Coles proudly labels their own-brand pig products as sow stall free, yet continues to sell products that have been revealed to use devices that cage and confine mother pigs," Farm Transparency Project executive director Chris Delforce said in a statement about Sunday's protest. "Consumers are being misled in viewing cages as a thing of the past."

Protesters carrying placards and showing disturbing videos of pigs being mistreated in a Coles supermarket
Protesters from the Farm Transparency Project carried placards and showed disturbing videos of pigs being mistreated on a busy Sunday afternoon at a Coles supermarket in Melbourne. Source: Supplied

The group has also called for the Andrews government to legislate a complete ban on sow stalls following a recent investigation that pigs in Victoria are still being locked on small cages.

'Leave the kids out of it'

The protesters marched around the supermarket playing audio of pigs squealing in pain, carrying placards with hands painted in mock blood, and also carried TVs to show confronting videos of mistreated pigs.

Mr Delforce admitted in an interview with 3AW that the protest, which targets adults, was held in a public place on a busy afternoon where families could be out and about with young children in tow.

"Yeah, I think the footage itself is confrontational. I think everything in commercial agriculture in Australia is quite confrontational to those who aren't aware of it," Mr Delforce said in the interview with radio host Neil Mitchell, who was quick to question whether it was appropriate for the protesters to show confronting content where young kids could possibly view it.

"But you don't want to be showing young children photographs of pigs that are being mistreated. That's not good for the kids. That's disturbing and distressing for the children," Mr Mitchell continued. "But why? Just leave the kids out of it. Leave the public out of it. Do it somewhere else."

"I think it is important for kids to be able to have those conversations with their parents and ask 'What are we actually eating?'" Delforce replied, adding that a lot of children don't realise they're eating animals. "Do you think it's OK to feed kids something knowing they wouldn't be OK with it if they knew the truth?"

"I don't think it is your right as a lobby group to go and show disturbing videos to kids," Mr Mitchell argued back.

Mr Delforce defended the move, saying that although children are generally not the target audience for the protesters, this was something that the public needs to be made aware of and it would have been quite difficult to hold such a protest that would not be in view of young kids.

Animal Justice Party MP Andy Meddick in September tabled a motion in parliament to stamp out the practice of caging pigs, calling the pork industry's attempt to self-regulate "woeful".

In response to Yahoo News Australia's request for comments regarding the lobby group's accusations, a Coles spokesperson said: "All Coles Own Brand pork suppliers comply with stringent sow stall free requirements."

Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.