From refuse collectors to occupational therapists, social workers to environmental health officers, local authority employees are the people we rely on to keep society ticking on from day to day. But while they may be doing great work, their staff pension funds are not.
A new report has revealed that local authority pension funds hold £238 million worth of investment in one of the most harmful practices on the planet: industrial livestock farming. That means key workers saving for retirement are unwittingly contributing to climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss, all because councils are not investing ethically.
The report, by Feedback, a campaign group working to transform the food system, and World Animal Protection (WAP) is called A New Front In Divestment Campaigning: UK Local Authority Pension Investments in Industrial Livestock. It reveals that the pensions fund of West Midlands combined authority is the biggest investor in industrial meat and dairy companies at £35.9 million, with Swansea council on £12.4 million and Strathclyde and Clwyd on £10.3 million each.
The companies include two companies that control 40 per cent of the Chinese dairy market, China Mengniu Dairy and the Yili Group; the world’s largest pork producer, the WH Group; the world’s second-largest meat processor, Tyson Foods; and ADM, a large producer and trader of soya, used for animal feed (£54 million).
Local authorities have shown they are capable of divesting themselves of harmful investments, but they are going too slowly and not far enough. Just six have committed to dropping fossil fuels from their portfolios. In the private sector, almost 1,500 companies, responsible for a collective $39.2 billion in assets, have pledged to cut ties to oil and gas.
Now the same laser focus needs to be turned on the environmental “blind spot” that is the industrialised livestock industry, say Feedback and WAP. While almost three quarters (74 per cent) of UK councils have declared a climate emergency, that has yet to translate into concrete action on animal farming.
Martin Bowman, a senior campaigner at Feedback, called on councils to divest their bonds and shares in industrial livestock corporations. He said they were “simply not compatible with a climate-safe future and, like fossil fuels, have no place in the pension portfolio of a climate-conscious local authority”.
To find out how much your local authority invests in industrial livestock and animal feed, type your postcode into the Divest from Big Livestock tool. Then click on “Take action” to send an email telling them to stop it!