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World Bank’s funding of ‘hog hotel’ factory farms under fire over climate effect
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World Bank’s funding of ‘hog hotel’ factory farms under fire over climate effect

The private sector arm of the World Bank is facing claims that it contributes to global heating and the undermining of animal welfare by providing financial support for factory farming, including the building of pig farming tower blocks in China.

A coalition of environmental and animal welfare groups is calling on the World Bank to phase out financial support for large-scale “industrial” livestock operations. More than $1.6bn was provided for industrial farming projects between 2017 and 2023, according to an analysis by campaigners.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank Group, is owned by 186 member countries including the UK, which has a 4.5% shareholding. Andrew Mitchell, the minister for development, is a governor of the IFC.

Kelly McNamara, a senior research and policy analyst at Friends of the Earth US, said there was a “mismatch” between the World Bank’s commitments on the climate crisis, sustainable development and animal welfare, and its financing of intensive farming. “Expanding industrial livestock production is a threat to climate, sustainable development and food security,” she said, adding that investing in such projects put smallholders out of business and increased meat consumption, fuelling global heating.

In June last year, the IFC approved a $47.3m (£37.4m) loan to the Chinese company Guangxi Yangxiang providing capital for four multistorey industrial pig-rearing complexes and a feed mill. “There are big advantages to a high-rise building,” a company manager told Reuters during early construction of the blocks at Yaji Mountain in southern China in 2018. “The land area is not that much, but you can raise a lot of pigs.” The farms, known as “hog hotels”, can be 13 floors high.

The Yangxiang group says it has combined “internet technologies such as artificial intelligence [and] cloud computing” with the traditional pig-rearing business. The company says on its website: “Yangxiang has created an industrial model with multifloor pig farming as the core and strives to build a high-end intelligent ‘meat factory’.”

Peter Stevenson, chief policy adviser at Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), said: “I’m appalled by some of these developments, which have limited space and barren conditions. They are not just damaging for animal welfare, but also for food security and the environment.”

Stevenson said intensive agriculture undermined food security because animals converted cereal feed inefficiently into meat and milk. He said it would be better to produce more crops for direct human consumption and reduce the amount of cereals used for animal feed.

Other IFC-funded projects include intensive chicken production in India and Uganda, pig production in Ecuador and dairy production in Pakistan. In June 2022, the IFC granted a loan of up to $200m to agribusiness giant Louis Dreyfus Company to purchase soy and corn in Brazil. IFC said it would only source crops from farmers committed to zero deforestation, but campaigners said it should “stop funding the wasteful use of such crops as animal feed”.

Friends of the Earth US, CIWF and other groups will be signing a letter to Ajay Banga, the World Bank’s president, for the bank’s spring meeting later this month. It will say the organisation must acknowledge that industrial farming is a “major contributor to the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss” and phase out the funding.

World Bank officials say the environment and animal welfare are central to the IFC’s financing of farming projects, with policies and guidelines to ensure sustainable businesses. They say large-scale projects can be used to develop more efficient, environmentally friendly practices. Officials also say they strive to reduce greenhouse emissions in every project for which finance is provided. The Yangxiang group and Louis Dreyfus Company were contacted for comment.

Source: theguardian.com