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June 17, 2013

Investments in Suffering

International banks and Member States support intensive farming practices banned in EU

Humane Society International

  • EU farm animal welfare policies were enacted to reduce animal suffering and answer consumer demands for farm animal welfare, not simply to push these unacceptable practices into other countries and regions. HSI

With financial backing of Member States in the European Union, international banks and credit agencies are investing in agricultural companies that fail to meet the EU’s standards for the humane treatment of farm animals. That is the conclusion of a report [PDF, updated Nov. 2013] by international animal welfare organizations Humane Society International, Compassion in World Farming and FOUR PAWS.

In one example, the report finds China pig producer Muyuan Foodstuff received nearly US$30 million in investments while continuing to confine the majority of its breeding pigs in sow crates. Such intensive confinement systems prevent animals from fully stretching their limbs, let alone walking, nesting or experiencing other important natural behaviors.

In recent years, the EU has made progress in improving animal welfare standards, including prohibiting farmers in Member States from using intensive confinement systems such as barren battery cages for laying hens and sow crates to virtually immobilize breeding pigs for their entire pregnancies. This progress should be encouraged elsewhere, and certainly should not be undermined by EU investments.

Chetana Mirle, director of farm animal welfare for HSI, explained: “Money from EU citizens has no business winding up in the pockets of farmers who don’t meet EU standards for the treatment of animals. EU farm animal welfare policies were not enacted to merely push these unacceptable practices out of the EU, but to reduce animal suffering and answer consumer demands for farm animal welfare.”

Gabi Paun, director of campaigns with FOUR PAWS, said: “We uncovered support for facilities with poor animal welfare standards abroad and are asking investment institutions to adhere to EU farm animal welfare standards.”

Dil Peeling, director of campaigns at Compassion in World Farming, said: “When the EU has taken the democratic decision to curb the worst excesses of intensive farming, but European money is used to drive animal misery elsewhere, those lending institutions involved fail the EU, its citizens and, most of all, the animals trapped in the systems they fund. These institutions need to change their policies now.”

Key elements of the report:

  • Banks that provide financing for the purpose of development (also known as international finance institutions), such as the International Finance Corporation and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, were found to be investing in agribusiness companies outside the EU that confine animals in barren battery cages or sow crates. The companies included some of the largest in the world.
  • Agribusiness companies engaging in intensive practices include the largest egg producer in Turkey, the largest poultry producer in the Ukraine, and some of the largest pig production companies in Ukraine and China.
  • Despite EU concerns about how animals are treated on farms, these banks lack binding regulations relating to farm animal welfare.
  • Export Credit Agencies of EU countries provide export insurance for equipment to companies that do not meet the EU’s farm animal welfare standards.
  • Insurance guarantees underwritten by the German government support the export of animal confinement systems that do not meet either EU standards or Germany’s own animal welfare requirements. In the last four years, EUR40.86 million in credit insurance was granted by the country for the construction of cage systems to confine laying hens outside Germany. Yet, these systems are not permitted inside Germany itself. The report calls for EU animal welfare standards to guide agricultural investment policies for EU-supported institutions.

ENDS

Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organizations. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been working for the protection of all animals through the use of science, advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — on the Web at hsi.org.