by Michel Klompmaker
We are all familiar with the supermarket chains Ahold and Delhaize, which a few years ago merged into one multinational company with roots in the Netherlands and Belgium. This multinational company has major interests on the other side of the Atlantic and in many European countries with its supermarkets. To get an idea of the size: In the third quarter of 2020, worldwide sales amounted to 17.8 billion euros, which is 10 percent more compared to the third quarter of 2019. That things are not going too badly for this multinational is evident from the report beginning of November. A new large-scale share buyback program for an amount of EUR 1 billion has been announced at the headquarters in Zaandam, the Netherlands. This purchasing program will start in early 2021. What is wrong with that? Nothing at all in itself, but much further from the Zaandam headquarters, in Indonesia, something is wrong. There, Ahold Delhaize is accused of serious animal cruelty. How has that come about exactly? We recently spoke about it exclusively with Erwin Vermeulen of Animal Rights.
In this time of COVID-19, by keeping your distance and washing your hands over and over again, it should be clear that epidemics are lurking. Talk about risk. Salmonella is an old acquaintance in this field. Cage eggs in the middle of feces from too many chickens in a cage increase the risk of salmonella. It is therefore incomprehensible that a large multinational that is by no means poor in 2020 is taking these serious safety risks. It may be assumed that the risk of salmonella under such circumstances is many tens of times greater than with cage-free farms. Consumers who buy cage eggs are two to five times more likely to be hospitalised with food poisoning than people who buy cage-free eggs. Asian customers, especially those in Indonesia, are still served Ahold Delhaize cage eggs. These eggs come from the dirtiest battery cages. Such practices are strictly prohibited within the European Union.
How can these kinds of practices take place under the wings of a neat multinational like Ahold Delhaize?
Erwin Vermeulen: “It goes without saying that safety among animals and humans is more important than ever in times of COVID-19. It is therefore crucial to shake the world awake and guarantee that safety in any case, COVID-19 or not. In fact, it is a scandal that safety should be discussed at a global level, only in the context of people and collective health, so that massive action should be taken. After all, animal cruelty, cruelty to all kinds of creatures and our planet earth and the individual character of all kinds of beings in the world should be reason enough to change things thoroughly. ”
Shocking video images and evidence from Indonesia
Shocking video footage has been released at various farms supplying eggs to Ahold Delhaize’s Super Indo supermarket chain in Indonesia. In total Indonesia has about 171 Super Indo supermarkets. The images show how rancidity, food safety risks and serious animal cruelty occur among Ahold Delhaize’s egg suppliers. They show evidence of the high pile of feces, caked on cages and equipment, how wild birds walk freely in and out of the farm, allowing avian flu and other diseases to spread. And how sick and deformed chickens spend their entire, short life in small battery cages.
Are you sure that the images come from Indonesia and that these are the suppliers of Ahold Delhaize?
Erwin Vermeulen: “The images from the study contain evidence of farm workers and managers and the GPS evidence of the location of where each batch of images was taken. Evidence has also been collected from Ahold Delhaize itself that stocks the eggs in supermarkets in Asia, including printouts of communications with suppliers and photos of the eggs on store shelves. The information from the company is printed directly on the egg cartons. ”
Why would Ahold Delhaize take such risks?
Erwin Vermeulen: “At a time when the world is fighting a pandemic caused by food safety errors, it is regrettable to say the least that Ahold Delhaize is putting profit above customer safety and food quality. We are only talking about a few cents of profit per egg. The European Food Safety Authority and a dozen international investigative teams have determined that battery cages, such as those supplying Ahold in Indonesia, are up to 33 times more likely to be infected with salmonella. In addition, just like dogs and cats, chickens are smart, intelligent individuals who feel pleasure and pain. Can you imagine how hellish the life of these creatures are? The suffering goes beyond symptoms of stress and minor injuries. Intensive confinement of poultry is barbaric and not in accordance with contemporary values.”
Ahold Delhaize versus the competition
The curious phenomenon is that virtually all other European retailers operating in Asia have set a timeline for selling cage-free eggs only in the region, including Tesco, Metro, Carrefour, Auchan, Aldi, Marks & Spencer and more parties. According to Vermeulen, twelve percent of the eggs are now grown cage-free. More than 50 leading food companies are committed to using only cage-free eggs in Indonesia, including Starbucks, Subway, Burger King and Nestlé. Ahold Delhaize is committed to selling cage-free eggs only in Europe and North America, but not in Indonesia.
That is actually really bizarre. It seems like discrimination against their Asian customers!
Erwin Vermeulen: “Ahold Delhaize apparently believes that Asian customers do not deserve the same level of food quality and food safety as its European and American customers. This discriminates against the Asian customers of these cage eggs. What is crystal clear is that Ahold Delhaize prioritises a few cents extra of profit per egg over protecting the health of customers and ensuring food safety, regardless of the terrible animal suffering. Ahold Delhaize has truly fallen behind other leading retailers on the important issue of food safety and animal welfare. We therefore urge Ahold Delhaize to treat Asian customers equally and to immediately end the sale of cruel and unsafe caged eggs in the stores in Indonesia. While cage-free doesn’t mean they can’t be cruel, they are however much more humane to animals. They allow birds to roam and exhibit natural behaviours such as flapping their wings, perching and dust bathing. ”
As a closing question, what is your intention now?
Erwin Vermeulen: “We want this to stop immediately. These practices are simply no longer possible. Hence our call to spread this message and sign the petition to counter these atrocities. So use the hashtag #AholdCruelty and share this story. Also share about it offline within your network. It is then up to you to decide whether you want to go to Albert Heijn and / or Delhaize, shop at Bol.com and get your drink at the Gall & Gall. Let’s hope this will soon be over and that Ahold Delhaize will stop these practices immediately. ”