Feeding destruction through animal agriculture: we need to stop financing factory farming


By Alexandre Andrade Sampaio

Millions of dollars are pumped into factory farming projects by development finance institutions (DFIs) every year. These are projects linked to animal cruelty, deforestation, usurping of indigenous lands and ways of life, worsening climate change, promoting non-communicable and zoonotic diseases, and putting workers in a state of illness and risk of death. The financing of factory farming projects has to stop, and that is what a coalition of multiple civil society organizations around the globe is fighting for.

Factory farming means, essentially, intensive and industrial-scale animal agriculture. As demonstrated by Sinergia Animal’s latest campaign video, it means sentient lives are being treated as nothing more than objects for human consumption.

“In factory farms, animals are locked up in overcrowded spaces or cages in which they can hardly move, often suffer from painful procedures like castration, and are unable to exhibit any natural behavior. Development banks must stop financing this cruelty,”

- Merel Van der Mark, Animal Welfare Finance Manager at Sinergia Animal.

Development banks and companies are certainly not the only ones responsible for the alarming rates of deforestation that we see around the world — in particular in Brazil, Bolívia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Deforestation is about many realities: local politics, poor institutional checks and balances, the undemocratic meddling of private actors in societal dynamics, and maneuvering countries with tactics that go from corruption to misinformation. It is, however, the stated core objective of development banks to run counter these dynamics and stand for the Paris Agreement as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and effectively promote a world free of diseases, suffering, and socio-environmental inequalities. Unfortunately, the very opposite is happening by financing factory farming. Read more in the recent report: Climate Misalignment: How Development Bank Investments in Industrial Livestock Are at Odds With Their Paris Agreement Commitments.

One example is emblematic: recently, we found out through the Early Warning System (EWS) that the Inter-American Development Bank Group was considering financing the activities of one of the largest factory farming companies in the world. As explained by the Stop Finance Factory Farming Campaign in a letter sent to directors of the bank, the company and its chain of production has been historically linked to cases of deforestation, indigenous rights violations, and corruption. With this record, it seemed irrational to invest USD$43 million for one of the largest industrial meat companies in the world to grow even bigger. Additionally, alternative food systems which promote social equality and environmental conscientiousness, like agro-ecology, have been desperately seeking attention from public financing. Thankfully international and national civil society pressure lead by the campaign, along with other factors, played a key role in the bank dropping this investment.

By financing factory farming, development banks and companies are in practice furthering a dynamic which runs counter to their claim of promoting real development. Instead, investments should be centered on people, on rights, on health, on protection of the environment, and promotion of global cooperation for social equality, in accordance with the UN Declaration on the Right to Development and the latest version of the UN Treaty on the Right to Development which is being pursued largely by the Global South countries.

The challenge is to deter factory farming altogether, while promoting a system that entails structural changes. As part of the Stop Financing Factory Farming Campaign, our task therefore at the International Accountability Project is to activate the full capacity of the Early Warning System, to:

  • as an entry point to information about the investment, identify and review proposed projects being considered by development banks;
  • identify the private companies and investors involved;
  • connect with communities and civil society closest to potential impacts;
  • exchange information between local groups and campaign partners to encourage collective advocacy; and
  • share local and regional contexts to inform any collective action.

This methodology is being used to support advocacy and uncover larger trends. For example, the Inter-American Bank Group and the World Bank Group are among the largest public investors in the sector, as the Early Warning System has documented in an upcoming trends analysis on investments in factory farming. We are also using this methodology in a variety of degrees in relation to specific projects such as the USD$50 million investment by the International Financial Institution of the World Bank Group into a poultry and pig farming multinational company that is endangering indigenous peoples’ water, land, and health rights in Ecuador and the investment of over USD$30 million in a private company that has documented practices of appalling treatment of animals in Brazil.

Watch the video of Kezia Kershaw from the Secretariat of the Stop Financing Factory Farming Campaign to learn more about IAP’s and the Early Warning System’s role in the campaign. (bit.ly/EWS_S3F_Video_Intro)

“We really see the development banks failing, at least on the private sector side, to support the kind of change needed in the global agricultural system to support both people and planet. Instead, they are supporting mostly business as usual, among major agro-industries, with minimal attention to impacts on local communities. We repeatedly find they have ignored the presence of indigenous peoples in project impact areas, for example by ProNaCa, a client of both the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and IDB Invest (Inter-American Development Bank private lending arm) in Ecuador. What we would like to see instead is more support for agro-ecological approaches and smallholder farmers, potentially in collaboration with local banks that have the capacity to manage such loans.”

— Ladd Connell, Environment Director, Bank Information Center

Join and Follow the Campaign: IAP and the EWS are on the Steering Committee of the Stop Financing Factory Farming Campaign with Friends of the Earth US, World Animal Protection, Feedback Global, Global Forest Coalition, Sinergia Animal, and the Bank Information Center. Dozens of local and national organizations around the world, that struggle to end inequalities, climate change, and animal cruelty, are campaign members.

We will continue to demand that public financing be directed to the social economic priorities of communities, and not to companies and investors of the elite. We will exchange information and reinforce the advocacy of local communities to limit and address social and environmental harms while promoting real development in accordance with their priorities for their lands and lives, and future generations. A new website will be launched soon, until then, follow the campaign on Twitter and Linkedin.

Editor: Ryan Schlief & Anggita Indari

Alexandre Andrade Sampaio is the Global Lead on the Right to Development and the Coordinator for Latin America and the Caribbean at the International Accountability Project



International Accountability Project (IAP)

IAP is a human and environmental rights organization that works with communities, civil society and social movements to change how today’s development is done.