Development banks should help prevent new pandemics


Petition demands banks stop investing in factory farms to decrease risk of new diseases


More than 10,000 people around the world have signed an online petition (bit.ly/PandemicBanks) launched by NGOs Sinergia Animal, Global Forest Coalition and Feedback demanding that major international financial institutions stop bankrolling factory farming, a key driver of new pandemic outbreaks, deforestation and climate change. The call, which targets the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, follows recent reports from the United Nations highlighting the dangers of this type of intensive animal agriculture.


"Development banks should be helping humanity create a more sustainable and safer world, but they are doing just the opposite by funding the worst forms of animal agriculture. These institutions are funded through our taxes in the form of contributions from governments all over the world. We are asking them to change and create a safer future for all", says Carolina Galvani, CEO of Sinergia Animal, one of the NGOs responsible for the campaign.


An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the newspaper The Guardian found that the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have funnelled $2.6 billion into pig, poultry and beef farming, as well as dairy and meat processing, over the last 10 years.


“Lending billions to these livestock operations is detrimental to our common future. The United Nations Environment Program has already warned that in modern animal agriculture, animals live ‘in less than ideal conditions’ that can help spread new diseases, similar to Covid-19”, says Carolina Galvani.


Factory farms often have unsanitary conditions, tightly pack animals together, and animals are too similar genetically, so they offer no resistance to the spread of diseases. They also entail major human-health risks. Factory farms consume large quantities of drugs; according to the World Health Organization, in some countries 80% of the total consumption of medically important antibiotics takes place in the animal sector. This means animal agriculture contributes significantly to antibiotic resistance, which already kills over 700,000 people annually and can lead to stronger and potentially more virulent diseases.


And nature is suffering too, warn advocates. “Experts project that the livestock sector will account for almost half of the world’s allowable budget for greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Without urgent action, the industry will continue to drive climate breakdown, leading to more extreme heat, droughts, floods and poverty”, says Carolina Galvani.


Animal agriculture is the single biggest culprit of tropical deforestation, according to NASA, as deforested areas have exponentially been used for pasture and cropland for animal feed such as soy and maize. Meanwhile, the UN indicates that as 75% of all emerging human pathogens are zoonotic, activities like deforestation and habitat encroachment increase the risk of disease transmission by putting humans and farms closer to wild animals and the viruses that they can carry.


"International development banks should give their financial support to businesses that can help build a greener, safer planet for animals and people", says Carolina Galvani. "In less than five minutes, people can sign our petition at bit.ly/PandemicBanks and help us prevent future pandemics. Every signature counts".

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