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Campaigners call for pension scheme to drop investments in factory farming

25 Jan 2022 3 minute read
Photo by Farmwatch is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter

Animal welfare campaigners have called for a local government pension scheme run by Torfaen council to drop £5.5 million of investments in livestock companies.

The Greater Gwent (Torfaen) pension fund, whose members include staff from Torfaen, Monmouthshire, Newport, Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly councils, is amongst the top 10 in the UK for investing in industrial livestock companies, according to research by environmental campaign group, Feedback and animal rights organisation, World Animal Protection.

Figures from Freedom of Information requests show 10 local authority pension funds hold almost half of total investments in livestock companies, worth £110.6 million, including West Midlands, Swansea, Strathclyde, Clwyd South Yorkshire, Durham and Greater Gwent.

The Greater Gwent pension fund’s investments of £5.5 million in livestock companies including Tyson Foods and WH Group, is the 10th highest in the UK.

Animal Welfare

Campaigners say major industrial livestock companies like WH Group, based in China, and Tyson Foods, based in the US, have been linked to a series of environmental, public health and animal welfare concerns.

Martin Bowman, senior campaigner at Feedback, said: “Industrial livestock corporations are simply not compatible with a climate-safe future and like fossil fuels, have no place in the pension portfolio of a climate-conscious local authority.

“We’re calling on councils to divest their bonds and shares in these companies, so public money is not being used to fuel climate change, future pandemic risk, human rights abuses, deforestation and species loss which put the future security of pensions, people and planet under threat.”

Lindsay Duncan, farming campaign manager at World Animal Protection, said public funds “should be used to invest in our future not to jeopardise it”.

“We urge local authorities to consider all aspects of harmful factory farming including poor welfare, deforestation, species loss and the devastating effects of climate change,” she said.

“To ensure a future that is fit for everybody in the UK we need to invest responsibly in our food system. That means investing in sustainable industries that address the issues facing our planet, not those exacerbating them.”

Government targets

A Torfaen council spokesman said the Gwent pension fund has “taken steps to cut the carbon footprint of its equity investments and aims to achieve net zero” in accordance with government targets.

“On top of reducing its carbon footprint, the pension fund is also committed to investment in renewable and sustainable solutions,” the spokesman said.

“Since 2020, the pension fund has committed £70 million towards sustainable infrastructure opportunities including renewable energy, energy storage, waste recycling, biodiversity and land regeneration.”

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2 years ago

Pardon the bad pun but this is a classic chicken and egg situation. Large scale farming enterprises are only enabled by institutions like banks, pension funds and insurance companies being prepared to invest in them. People expect “high returns” to enable their pension funds to yield a good income in retirement and this exacerbates the pressure to secure high yields on investments like industrialised farming. Combine that with the comparatively high salaries and benefits paid to a significant segment of employees in the finance sector and you can see a couple of big factors in driving those decisions.

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