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Banks are behind the increase in global meat and dairy production, report says

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Banks are behind the increase in global meat and dairy production, report says

Billion-dollar funding leads to unsustainable increase in global meat and dairy production, report finds.

Global meat production increased by 9% between 2015 and 2021, the report said, while dairy production increased by 13% during this period.

Over almost the same period, from 2015 to 2022, financiers provided the world’s 55 largest factory farming companies with average annual credit injections of $77bn (£60bn), and some appeared to compromise their own anti-deforestation policies to do this, according to the report.

The credit, according to the report, “is designed to help businesses grow…and has contributed to a huge and unsustainable increase in global meat and dairy production.”

Martin Bowman, head of policy and campaigns for Feedback, the UK-based campaign group which produced The reportsaid: “We are calling on financial institutions to stop financing factory farming companies as soon as possible. »

The sprawling risks of factory farming cataloged in the report include its contributions to the climate crisis, deforestation, pollution, animal abuse, biodiversity loss, worker exploitation, human disease and to antibiotic resistance.

Eating less animal protein and raising fewer animals, particularly in wealthier countries, is the best way to reduce livestock emissions, the report says, referring to a survey of more than 200 climatologists and experts in food and agriculture.

The survey finds that to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, global emissions from livestock must peak by 2025 and fall 61% by 2036, with faster reductions and deeper in the richest countries.

The banks providing the most support to the world’s 55 largest factory farming companies were Bank of America, which provided nearly $29 billion, Barclays with just over $28 billion, and JPMorgan Chase with nearly 27 billion dollars, according to the report. Barclays was the largest lender to Brazilian meat company JBS, “the world’s highest-emitting livestock company,” according to the statement.

Major dairy financiers cited in the report include Wells Fargo, which was Dairy Farmers of America’s largest creditor, and ANZ Bank, Fonterra’s largest creditor in New Zealand. In 2021, the Dairy Farmers of America emitted more greenhouse gases than Denmark, and Fonterra was responsible for about 45% of New Zealand’s total emissions that year, it says.

The report also reveals that some banks are compromising their own anti-deforestation policies to finance Brazilian meat companies Minerva Foods, Marfrig and JBS. All three are frequently linked to deforestation.

HSBC policy documents promise that it “will not knowingly provide financial services to high-risk customers directly involved in deforestation or sourcing from suppliers involved in” deforestation. But between 2015 and 2022, HSBC was Minerva’s second-largest creditor and Marfrig’s fourth-largest, according to the report.

Bank of America was Minerva’s fifth-largest global creditor during the same period, the report said, despite a a policy that says “Loan funds are not used to finance projects or commercial operations” that lead to deforestation.

Rabobank says it “does not finance any deforestation”, even if the law allows it” in Brazil. However, the report reveals that he extended credit to JBS and Minerva between 2015 and 2022.

A Barclays spokesperson said its financial policies “were updated in April 2023 to include restrictions on beef production and primary processing in high-risk deforestation countries in South America (and require companies) to respect human rights throughout their operations and supply chain.

Rabobank said in an email that it was “actively fighting illegal deforestation” but did not comment on individual cases. When she receives Feedback’s report, she will “carefully review its findings,” she said.

HSBC said it was “important to distinguish between entities that are (banking) customers of HSBC… and other companies with which we may appear to be related through equity interests”, and that it had “a management plan and an engagement policy”. for having expressed his concerns to companies “in particular about the risk of deforestation”.

Marfrig has rejected any link to deforestation, saying “all of its production is subject to internationally recognized third-party audits” with no non-compliance found over the past 11 years. Until it had access to the full report, it was “impossible to provide” detailed answers, the company said, adding that defunding would hinder the development of a sustainable food system that depends on new investment. in technology, innovation, technical assistance and training”.

In an 18-page statement, Minerva says its efforts to protect the ecosystem on which it depends include the recent suspension of 414 Brazilian suppliers for illegal deforestation and other environmental issues, as well as a series of successes in combating deforestation in its direct livestock supply chain. However, he says, controlling the farms of indirect suppliers remains the “biggest challenge facing the entire sector”. It further details animal welfare policies, emissions reduction projects, and sustainability and human rights initiatives.

Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase declined to comment. Others did not respond to requests for comment.

The International Meat Secretariat said livestock companies “are acutely aware of the need to develop and grow responsibly in order to provide the essential proteins needed by a growing population.” It adds that the commercial livestock sector is “seeking growth to support increasing demand” and is subject to “increasing controls and regulation” and corporate social responsibility requirements.

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