A row has escalated over advice given to Australia's big two supermarkets on animal welfare issues.
Woolworths and Coles have been publicly named as among many global businesses who are aligned to the UK-based and little known Business Benchmark on Animal Welfare.
This assessment tool is looking to expand its company rankings to include their commitment to reducing a reliance on animal products.
Woolworths has already indicated it is reviewing its involvement with this assessment group which has now been shown to be directly linked to the Austrian-based animal rights group Four Paws International.
It also has ties with UK-based "Compassion in World Farming", another animal rights group which says its mission is to end factory farming, citing beef feedlotting as an example.
Actress Joanna Lumley is a high-profile patron of the group.
These two activist groups "support" the benchmarking system "providing technical expertise and guidance on farm animal welfare and related issues, funding and practice resources".
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The BBFAW says it is the leading global measure of farm animal welfare management, policy commitment, performance and disclosure in food companies.
The National Farmers; Federation and Queensland-based farming group AgForce are the latest to weigh in on the issue and, without naming the supermarkets directly, has asked businesses assessed by the Business Benchmark on Animal Welfare to "rethink their links to the scheme".
A consultation paper released by the organisation proposes to rank companies based on their commitment to "reducing reliance on animal products" - including a plan to halve the multi-billion dollar livestock industry by 2040.
NFF chief executive Tony Mahar said the new target confirms what the benchmark is really about, and said businesses should instead work directly with customers and suppliers to progress welfare outcomes.
"This proposal lays bare the agenda of the radical activist groups behind this benchmark.
"It's not about science-based improvements to animal welfare. It's an extreme agenda that puts livestock producers and their communities in the crosshairs," Mr Mahar said.
AgForce is calling for some of Australia's largest companies to withdraw their support from the Business Benchmark on Animal Welfare.
AgForce CEO Michael Guerin said the proposal laid bare the agenda of the radical activist groups behind the organisation, and needed to be stopped.
"This is an extreme agenda that is not based on science at all," he said.
"Australia's strong regulatory environment and track record - both on animal welfare and sustainability - means there is no ethical reason to reduce demand for Australian livestock products at all.
"Businesses should be working with farmers to progress animal welfare outcomes, not affiliating themselves with extremist groups on the other side of the world."
The RSPCA is a supporter of BBFAW.
In 2020, the RSPCA congratulated Woolworths and Coles for being part of the benchmark which the group said "which is good news for Australian grocery buyers".
"BBFAW rankings mean an improvement of welfare standards for billions of Australian farm animals and increased access to more humanely farmed products for all Australians," the RSPCA stated.
The NFF's Mr Mahar said that Australia's strong regulatory environment and track record - both on animal welfare and sustainability - meant there was no ethical reason to reduce demand for Australian livestock products.
"We take animal welfare incredibly seriously in Australia. Happy, healthy animals are the core of any successful livestock business.
"The idea that we need to reduce demand for sustainable, ethically-grown animal products is completely off the deep end. It's just out of touch, extremist ideology."
The NFF is now calling on some of Australia's largest companies which are assessed under the scheme to withdraw their support.
"This should be a catalyst for any company using this benchmark to get out. These activist groups are no longer even pretending to be sensible. They're asking companies to phase out a core part of their business.
"Businesses should be working with their suppliers and their customers to progress animal welfare outcomes, not extremist groups on the other side of the world.
"Involving farmers and real consumers in these conversations is the sensible and pragmatic way to get results."
Mr Mahar said the implications of being led by extremist groups could not be more serious.
"These are our members' livelihoods they're targeting - real people, with real businesses, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs. We're talking about a significant slice of the Australian economy."
Coles has been asked to comment.