The FARMS Initiative
The FARMS Initiative’s goal is for financial institutions to encourage and support meat, milk and egg producers, and other companies in the supply chain, towards meeting the Responsible Minimum Standards with respect to how farm animals are raised, transported and slaughtered.
Issues surrounding animals raised for food are complex, and the FARMS Initiative seeks modest yet impactful improvements from financial institutions in the way they manage the risks and opportunities related to farm animal welfare. Financial institutions have a number of mechanisms by which they can influence the companies they finance, invest in or insure, including engaging with businesses on specific issues, or creating and enforcing internal or external policies that govern their entire portfolio.
When producers improve their practices – including the infrastructure and equipment used to house, transport and slaughter animals, but also with respect to how their staff interact with animals – there is not only a tremendous benefit to the animals, there are also advantages for the environment, public health and the people who work with farm animals. The global movement to improve farm animal welfare reflects a moral obligation to treat other sentient beings with care and respect, but also shows the rising expectations consumers have about the animal-sourced foods they consume.
The Responsible Minimum Standards
The July 2019 Responsible Minimum Standards cover five of the most commonly farmed animals: Beef Cattle, Chickens Raised for Meat, Dairy Cattle, Laying Hens and Pigs. They are based upon the principles of a number of global frameworks, including the International Finance Corporation’s Good Practice Note on Improving Animal Welfare in Livestock Operations, which identifies key welfare risks and, in each case, proposes mitigation strategies. The Responsible Minimum Standards also reflect input from numerous animal protection organisations and animal welfare certification organisations that work globally, regionally and nationally, as well as account for the most recent science about the behavioral needs of farm animals.
Progress towards any ambitious goal is gradual and challenging. Therefore, reasonable timelines are built into the Responsible Minimum Standards for financial institutions to consider when both engaging with producers about their operations, and also when updating their internal and public-facing policies.
The FARMS Initiative foresees that the more forward-thinking financial institutions will encourage and incentivize their clients to meet or exceed the Responsible Minimum Standards, and we will publicly recognize those financial institutions that make steps to do so. The FARMS Initiative will also engage with Environmental, Social and Governance research and ratings companies and standard setting bodies in order to educate them about farm animal welfare, and work with them to incorporate the Responsible Minimum Standards into their activities.
“Businesses that address or enhance animal welfare are likely to win or retain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.”
International Finance Corporation’s Good Practice Note
There is a business case for improving animal welfare. Good standards of animal welfare can:
Deliver economic benefits resulting from improved animal health; this can lead to increased productivity, reduced veterinary costs and lower mortality.
Reduce infectious disease which can cause major financial losses.
Improve meat quality: Animal stress before and during slaughter has serious adverse effects on meat quality.
Improve access to markets that require high welfare standards; these may pay a premium for such products.
Improve public image and reduce reputational risk.
Create greater employee job satisfaction leading to better staff motivation and performance.
Industrial animal agriculture will place several of the UN Sustainable Development Goals out of reach
The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed by the members of the United Nations in 2015. They state: “We are determined to take the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world on to a sustainable and resilient path”.
Care for animal welfare helps to achieve benefits for all the pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental and social. Industrial animal agriculture will make it very difficult to meet the following SDGs:
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