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Danish, German and Dutch Agriculture Ministers link animal welfare and international finance

Humane Society International applauds move; Member States urged to adhere to EU farm animal welfare standards when granting investment capital abroad.

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The Agriculture Ministers of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands have called on EU Member States to safeguard animal welfare when granting investment capital through international finance institutions and when providing guarantees through export credit agencies. EU animal welfare standards are higher than those in the emerging economies receiving this investment capital, and where the exports receiving export credit agency support are destined. The appeal was made at a meeting of EU agriculture ministers today. Humane Society International applauds this move and encourages other EU Member States to support the initiative.

Joanna Swabe, HSI’s EU executive director, said: “We warmly thank Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands for their leadership. Ending financial support from the EU for poor welfare housing systems in emerging and developing economies is critical to raising farm animal welfare standards worldwide.”

Across the globe, an overwhelming number of egg-laying hens, breeding pigs and veal calves are confined in battery cages, individual sow stalls and veal crates, respectively. The intensive confinement of these production systems severely impairs animal welfare, given that the animals are unable to exercise or engage in many important natural behaviours. As a result of the severe restriction within these barren housing systems, animals can experience significant and prolonged physical and psychological harm. Extensive scientific evidence has demonstrated that intensively confined farm animals experience boredom, distress and suffering. Conventional battery cages for egg-laying hens, the continual confinement of pregnant sows in individual sow stalls, and veal crates for calves have already been banned and phased out throughout the EU.

This use of public funds by international financial institutions and export credit agencies to support facilities using such extreme confinement systems in third countries was highlighted in a report by HSI last year, and brought the issue to the attention of Member State governments and the European Parliament. In May 2014, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development revised its Environmental and Social Policy to include animal welfare, requiring clients to implement relevant EU farm animal welfare standards or good international practice, whichever is most stringent, when investment capital is provided. HSI believes that the EBRD’s policy should serve as a model for other international finance institutions, including the World Bank Group.

The World Bank is revising its Safeguard Policies and the Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines of the International Finance Corporation—the World Bank’s private sector arm—is scheduled for revision in 2015. “We call on EU Member States to actively engage in promoting the inclusion of binding, progressive animal welfare standards in both the Safeguard Policies and the Environmental, Health and Safety Guidelines. International financing should promote forward-looking animal friendly farming systems rather than perpetuating and extending the use of cruel, outdated extreme confinement systems,” said Swabe.

HSI is also calling on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to emulate the EBRD’s approach to animal welfare in the revision of its standards for export credit guarantees. All but one OECD members are also shareholders of the EBRD, representing 85 percent of EBRD shares.


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