News

Call for crackdown as animal rights groups work to turn banks into corporate activists

James Nason, 18/05/2021

ANIMAL rights groups have made no secret of their strategy to actively target banks and publicly pressure them not to finance industries and practices they oppose, with livestock exports, intensive farming and mulesing among their key targets.

Anti-meat activists block peak hour traffic in Melbourne during a protest in 2019.

As reported early last year, Animals Australia published a “scorecard” ranking banks according to whether they have a public animal welfare policy, if they finance live exports or ”intensive farming” industries, and if they require businesses they finance to use pain relief on animals.

The reports drew condemnation at the time from cattle industry leaders who accused banks of stepping beyond their remit to appease agenda driven groups, and helping to drive the business model of activism.

Then-NTCA president Chris Nott warned banks that turning their backs on livestock export companies would cause many producers who relied upon the trade to market their stock to “vote with their feet” and find other finance providers.

Despite such warnings anecdotal reports indicate some banks are continuing to bow to activist pressure and privately refusing to do business with legitimate businesses now in the sights of animal rights groups.

One livestock exporter, who asked not to be named, told Beef Central at Beef 2021 in Rockhampton that their bank is now pressuring them to find finance elsewhere, despite their business having been a model customer with significant lending volumes with the same bank for several years.

It’s only anecdotal, but conversations with a handful other livestock export industry stakeholders produced similar stories.

The issue reflects a broader trend of so-called ‘culture wars’ in Australia which has seen banks such as ANZ withdraw finance for the Port of Newcastle in a move seen as a significant rebuke of the coal industry and its exposure to climate risk.

Media commentator Chris Kenny drew attention to the trend in his column in The Australian this week writing that “our financial and insurance institutions are  leading the charge in corporate decisions that constrain and threaten, rather than encourage, some of our export industries”.

“Coal is at the forefront now, but gas is starting to receive attention — and agriculture might eventually be in for the toughest time of all because small businesses as well as large operations could suffer,” he wrote, pointing to the impact of activist campaigns against kangaroo harvesting industry on Surat, Qld, based kangaroo processing business Warroo Game Meats.

“It used to export kangaroo skins to the US for use in football boots and other products. Indigenous business advocate and former ALP national president Warren Mundine has championed this business, which was started by the Mickelbourghs, a proud Gunggari family, as a classic example of job creation in the bush. The Mickelbourghs employ about 30 people (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) making their company a crucial employer and success story for more than 20 years in this tiny town,” he wrote.

“Activists are still trying to kill the kangaroo industry; they do it with films and campaigns spreading misinformation globally, making absurd claims about kangaroos being on the brink of extinction. The campaign has been supported by Greens politicians and animal rights activists here, who had a great win when they had kangaroo products banned by California, eliminating the largest market.

“So an export market was closed, and an Indigenous business and outback employer was put under real financial pressure — without there being any environmental benefit because the kangaroo cull goes ahead under scientific quotas regardless of what happens to the carcasses. “It is just nuts,” summarises Mundine. “What would we know? We have only been eating kangaroos for 60,000 years.”

A similar trend in the United States resulted in lawmakers in that country introducing a Bill earlier this year seeking to prohibit banks from refusing to lend or provide other services to entire categories of lawful business.

Federal inquiry examining impacts of banking changes on ‘legitimate, law abiding businesses’

Here in Australia a joint Federal Parliamentary committee inquiry is currently underway, looking into the prudential regulation of investment in Australia’s export industries.

Included in the terms of reference is a focus on the consequential impacts of changes in prudential standards and practices across banking, insurance and superannuating institutions for “legitimate, law-abiding businesses connected to Australia’s export industries”.

The Red Meat Advisory Council has taken the opportunity to lodge a submission on behalf of Australia’s $28.5 billion red meat industry, in which it raises concern about the influence now being exerted over major banks by a highly-coordinated international network of “anti-farmer and anti-meat extremist organisations”.

“RMAC is conscious that the significant difficulties in gaining access to financial services other law-abiding exporting industries have experienced is starting to emerge in the meat and livestock industry,” the submission says.

“The well-resourced anti-farmer and anti-meat activist lobby, Animals Australia, is already openly calling for non-regulated changes in banking practices.”

The RMAC submission says the misinformed campaigns being used to pressure banks into changing their lending policies do not recognise that Australia is the only major exporting nation to require in-market traceability, control and animal welfare standards for Australian live cattle, sheep and goat exports.

“Furthermore, the use of selective information fails to recognise that red meat livestock green house gas emissions have fallen by 56.7 per cent since 2005, representing the most significant reduction by any Australian business sector.

“Without sufficient access to financial services, Australia’s red meat and livestock industry will suffer from a lack of large-scale investment in systems and processes, missing opportunities to build enabling capabilities to compete internationally on a price or differentiation basis.

“If left unaddressed, the financial viability of Australia’s red meat and livestock industry risks being ransomed to extreme activist agendas.”

RMAC is asking the Commonwealth Government to consider ceasing commercial dealings with financial service providers that don’t support law-abiding businesses; issue a statement of intent to be a financial service provider of last resort for law-abiding businesses in instances of market failure; and to annually reviews all financial service providers who are reported to have refused service to law-abiding businesses.

The full RMAC submission can be read on the committee website here

Activists trying to shut industries ‘by any means possible’

Red Meat Advisory Council Chair John McKillop said it is clear anti-meat and anti-farmer activists are trying to shut down our livestock industries by any means possible.

“Whether it’s illegally trespassing on-farm and in abattoirs, spreading misinformation to consumers or calling for supplier boycotts, regulators need to crack down on these unlawful and unethical tactics.

“The same militant strategies that have been used against resource companies are now being weaponised against law-abiding Australian red meat and livestock businesses.

“RMAC will push to ensure the red meat and livestock supply chain issues are considered by the parliamentary inquiry.

“Without sufficient access to financial services, our sector will suffer from underinvestment, which will cost jobs and livelihoods.

“If left unaddressed, the financial viability of Australia’s red meat and livestock industry risks being ransomed to extreme activist agendas.”

One long time livestock export industry veteran commented that banks were being disingenuous in purporting to support Australian agriculture publicly while privately withdrawing support for businesses their customers relied upon.

He said the live export trade’s presence in the market underpinned the incomes of many producer banking customers, especially those in Northern Australia.

“If the live export industry was not financially supported and ceased to exist the income and importantly asset value of properties particularly in northern Australia which the banks use for collateral could reduce in the order of 30 percent to 40 percent, depending on geographical location,” he said.

He suggested that it was time for all legal and regulated industries that are being discriminated against by banks such as the coal, oil, gas and timber industries join forces to call out the trend, and align in the same way opponents of the industries were.

 

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Comments

  1. Constantine Costa, 21/05/2021

    I see parallels with the 1975 Lima Agreement signed off by Whitlam which resulted in the death of our manufacturing capacity. The campaigns against our agricultural industries will certainly diminish our food production capacity. Which countries will then take up the shortfall in production? What then? Is there a larger plan by unknown actors to harm our country’s economy? Sounds like a conspiracy theory but can you dismiss outright that possibility? Australia stands as a beacon and that in its self can fuel jealousy. Weakening Australia would certainly make it easier to limit our influence in the south pacific region.

  2. Anjeriah Ziel, 20/05/2021

    I’m all for animal rights, but I also eat meat. I’d just prefer my eggs from happy chickens and my meat not tortured..
    Anyone who needs to use miss-information or fear mongering to win their argument should be held accountable. I’m more angry at these humans now more than ever. Outrageous.

    • Anne, 20/05/2021

      Sorry, there is no such thing as happy chicken and not tortured meat. Chicken forced to lay eggs faster and take them away, never to have a happy family live or even a life. Same for any meat, all animals are tortured in the process and at the end having a horrible slow death.

      • Shannon Smith, 21/07/2021

        There is a such a thing as happy chickens. I have four of them : ) they are not ‘forced’ to lay eggs – in fact I couldn’t care less if they lay or not – the eggs are just a bonus. First thing in the morning I let them out to free range and they go to their coop around 5:20pm when it starts to get dark. They have gorgeous personalities and are my pets. There are a lot of chickens who are treated terribly – but there are also chickens who have a very happy life – including mine.

  3. Paul Franks, 18/05/2021

    Many Australian banks have deposits up to $250 000 guaranteed by the federal government. Perhaps the government should remove banks who choose not to offer finance to legal Australian industries from the federal guarantee.

    • Anjeriah Ziel, 20/05/2021

      Paul Frank’s, what’s actually more concerning to me than the issue at hand here is that it’s just been stated that some of the government uses the exact same tactics as these animal rights over-doers to win elections- and it works!.
      I’m just repeatedly astounded by humanity. Truely.

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