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Why The World Bank (And You) Should Bat For Better Treatment Of Livestock

11/03/2016 8:07 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Across the world, the vast majority of animals bred for use in the egg, meat and dairy industry are raised in conditions that maximize production. There is no regard for the well-being of the animal. In the 2008 report, 'The Welfare of Intensively Confined Animals', Humane Society International presents research relating to the welfare of animals in the food industry. Hens are frequently crammed into small wire cages with little space to stand or flap their wings, while breeding pigs are nearly immobilized within metal enclosures called gestation crates for the duration of their repeated pregnancies. Such intensive confinement causes severe physical and psychological distress, as it prevents the animal from exhibiting normal movement and other important natural behaviours.

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Photo Credit: HSI

Billions of land animals are raised for food globally every year. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations predicts that animal agriculture will increase by approximately 70% by 2050, with most of that growth taking place in emerging economies like India. Given these predictions, investment is likely to be significant in the public and private sector of meat, egg and milk production.

All producers of animal products, from the small farmer to the large agribusiness conglomerate, will benefit from a transition to more humane methods of farming.

The World Bank's safeguard policies set the standard for public sector lending and investments in emerging economies. That is why NGOs around the world, including Humane Society International, have appealed to the financial institution to include enforceable animal welfare standards in its safeguard policies.

In addition to meeting the ethical imperative to reduce animal suffering, the adoption of animal welfare standards by international lenders makes financial sense for the recipient and the investor. As discussed in the World Bank's own internal documents:

"Animals that are healthy, well-rested, and handled in a way as to prevent stress yield products of greater quality; using practices that prevent and control disease helps animal welfare and is economically beneficial."

Further, both global and domestic markets are poised to close their doors to products produced without basic animal welfare standards. An expanding number of multinational food companies are phasing out the use of battery cages, gestation crates and other abusive practices from their supply chains. Governments throughout the world--including in Asia, Latin America and Africa--have already adopted, or are considering adopting, farm animal welfare legislation in response to public concerns.

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Photo Credit: HSI

Many small farmers already practice extensive farm animal production with high animal welfare standards. With proper support, the promotion of animal welfare standards could give these farmers a market advantage. Ultimately, all producers of animal products, from the small farmer to the large agribusiness conglomerate, will benefit from a transition to more humane methods of farming.

HSI's formal submission to the World Bank asks the entity to only slightly modify the existing language on animal husbandry within the safeguards to reference a clear and simple animal welfare framework that can be implemented. This would be similar to the International Finance Corporation's Good Practice Note on Improving Animal Welfare, and would protect the welfare of all animals, regardless of the size of the operation in which they are raised.

Sign the petition and ask the World Bank to include the language of animal welfare in its safeguard policies. Show the world you care...

Many EU member states also have announced their support for the adoption of animal welfare standards by international financial institutions. However, this week HSI released a report showing that public funds from some states are supporting agricultural companies abroad that fail to meet the EU's farm animal welfare standards. In 2014, for example, the International Finance Corporation gave funds to Shandong Hekangyuan Poultry Breeding Company, one of China's largest duck producers, without any information or documentation about the company's animal welfare standards.

More than 115,000 animal protection advocates across the world participated in HSI's online campaign to send letters to the executive directors of the World Bank asking for the meaningful inclusion of animal welfare within the safeguards policy; 883 Indians also sent letters, which were delivered to the executive director of the World Bank from India.

Add your voice in favour of raising the standards for animal welfare across the world. Sign the petition and ask the World Bank to include the language of animal welfare in its safeguard policies. Show the world you care by participating in the movement to herald a positive change in the way animals are treated.

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