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Animal wellbeing

We support the dignity and wellbeing of animals

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FY18 Summary

At Australian Ethical, we know animals are sentient and their quality of life matters. Our Ethical Charter requires us to seek out investments which provide for and support the dignity and wellbeing of animals, and avoid any investments which unnecessarily cause them harm.

This table summarises the work we did in 2017/18 on live exports, factory farming and animal testing.

The Issue Our stance Investment Stance Shareholder Engagement General Advocacy Supporting the Experts
Live exports
In April 2018, 60 Minutes  broadcast footage filmed by a courageous whistle-blower showing animal cruelty on live sheep export ships, triggering renewed calls to ban the live export trade. This followed a litany of exposés which showed mistreatment of Australian animals in export destination countries.
Live export causes great and unnecessary suffering and should be banned. We do not invest in live export companies or companies that raise animals for live export. We also avoid companies that facilitate the trade e.g. specialist transport companies. We engaged with banks (who finance exporters), insurance companies (who insure livestock) and a port logistics provider, asking them to reassess their exposure to the live export trade. So far two companies have stated they will not provide services to live exporters going forward. We were one of the first companies in Australia to state publicly that we do not support live export. We spoke to the media and wrote to the Federal Government calling for an end to the trade. We sent one of our ethics analysts to help Animals Australia with their live export court challenge. We also promoted Animals Australia’s petition to end live exports on social media.
Factory farms

Animals on conventional farms can be subject to extreme confinement and routine mutilations e.g. debeaking, mulesing, tail docking and castration (usually without pain relief). Animals can also be bred to grow larger and faster than normal, which can lead to skeletal damage, degenerative diseases and organ failure.
Current conventional animal agriculture (including ‘organic’ and ‘free range’ production) is unsustainable because of the inherent animal suffering and climate impact. Plant-based alternatives are nutritionally sufficient, involve less animal suffering and a smaller environmental footprint. We do not invest in conventional animal agriculture. As a result, we have avoided investing in companies responsible for the slaughter of over:

  • 244,730,000 chickens and turkeys
  • 5,290,000 fish
  • 70,000 cows
  • 40,000 sheep*
We co-signed engagement letters to 110 global food companies about their management of farm animal welfare (arranged by Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, BBFAW) and 17 global food manufacturers and retailers about replacing animal products with plant protein (arranged by Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return, FAIRR).

We also supported FAIRR’s public investor statement on antibiotic stewardship and their engagement with 20 global companies in the fast-food and casual dining restaurant sectors to limit antibiotics use in their supply chains.

We called on the government to improve Australian poultry standards by banning battery cages and phasing out the use of fast-growth breeds of meat chickens.

In a submission to a Federal Government inquiry we called for better ESG reporting by the agricultural industry including on animal welfare. We also pressed for recognition of the importance of animal welfare in the ASX Corporate Governance Principles.

We are a signatory to BBFAW and FAIRR, who both seek to raise animal welfare standards across the agriculture and food supply sectors.

We support the work of Food Frontier, through The Foundation. Food Frontier advocate for the consumption of plant-based and ‘clean’ meats. By supporting the shift to meat alternatives, we hope to reduce animal suffering generated from some meat farming practices.

Where Pigs Fly Farm Sanctuary received a community grant for 2018 and hosted a volunteering day for our staff to assist with rescued farm animals.
Animal testing

Animals are used in experiments to test the efficacy and safety of therapeutic goods (such as pharmaceuticals and certain medical devices). Animals can also be used in experiments to test the safety of cosmetic products and of other chemical-based substances (such as paints and cleaning materials).
We do not support testing on animals for any purpose other than contributing to human or animal health or safety. We recognise that complete alternatives to animal testing have not yet been developed and so animal testing is, at least at the moment, necessary to make medical advances in some areas. We do not invest in cosmetic companies that test on animals. We do invest in companies that test on animals for medical purposes where we think the company is developing or supplying products that significantly benefit human or animal health, and where the testing is in accordance with ethical guidelines, accreditations or legal requirements which we assess to be robust to limit the extent of testing and animal suffering. We ask health companies involved in animal testing to demonstrate to us that they are supporting the 3Rs (Replacement with alternatives to testing on animals; Reduction of number of animals used in testing; and Refinement of testing to improve welfare of animals). Through this exercise we have identified ‘best practices’. We will engage with companies to encourage more wide-spread adoption of these practices. In this way we hope to play a part in improving standards across the board. We researched opportunities for government to promote alternatives to animal testing e.g. Government funding of research to develop and commercialise alternatives. We support the work of Medical Advances Without Animals (MAWA) through The Foundation. MAWA works to develop non-animal-based alternatives to biomedical testing. By funding replacement research and training scientists in alternative techniques, we hope to reduce the use of animals and animal products in medical testing.


* Based on estimates of animals processed by four ASX listed companies: Australian Agricultural Company, Inghams Group, Tassal Group Limited and Webster Limited.