Big European banks fund drivers of animal cruelty, habitat destruction, and wildlife loss in the Amazon and beyond


Big European banks fund drivers of animal cruelty, habitat destruction, and wildlife loss in the Amazon and beyond

22 February 2021
Press Release
Major financial institutions across the European Union are investing in companies at high risk of being linked to deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado, thereby exacerbating climate change, biodiversity loss, public health risks and farm animal cruelty on a massive scale. As it stands, the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement will only further fuel this trend.

For immediate release: Brussels 23/02/2021

According to a new report published by World Animal Protection, the EU’s top ten financial institutions, such as ABN AMRO, Santander and ING Group, are massively bankrolling companies linked to cattle and soya supply chains which are operating in areas of Brazil where rainforests and savannah are being cleared - legally or even illegally - to produce meat and crop-based feed. 

Over the past five years, these financial institutions have invested up to €81 billion in companies such as Cargill/Danone, ADM, Bunge, Carrefour, Casino, Lactalis, JBS, Louis Dreyfus and Marfrig, meaning that EU consumers are unknowingly fueling these unethical and carbon-intensive business practices with their savings and pensions.   

Dirk Verdonk, Director at World Animal Protection, said:  

At no cost should our world’s most precious rainforests be cashed in for greed, banks have a duty to their customers to invest their funds responsibly and ethically. Reputable names in household banking are betraying their customers’ trust and investing into morally corrupt business – those that destroy habitats, displace wildlife, and participate in the very cruellest of businesses – low-welfare, factory farming.

The conclusion of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement has shone a light on deforestation in the Amazon, where an area the size of three football pitches is lost every single minute to agricultural use. The Amazon is home to millions of species of sentient animals that suffer when their habitat is lost. At least 17% of the beef and 20% of the soy exported from the Amazon and the Cerrado to the EU may be “contaminated” with illegal deforestation. This soy is often fed to the 70 billion animals that are globally farmed for food each year, two-thirds on factory farms in conditions impeding them to move freely or live naturally.   

The trade agreement concluded by the EU and Mercosur in June 2020 will only aggravate this. According to an impact study published in France, the agreement would generate an extra 25% of deforestation each year in the six years following the entry into force. 

The EU should not ratify the EU-Mercosur agreement without fundamentally renegotiating its terms. As it stands, it is a poor deal for animals, the planet and the people, and it is not in line with the strategies adopted by the EU under the Green Deal. This agreement will further fuel the intensification of animal production, and this trend, in addition to being detrimental to animal welfare, also contributes to issues like habitat loss for wild animals, the spread of zoonoses, deforestation, the climate crisis and antimicrobial resistance. A simple declaration or protocol will not fix it, the EU needs to entirely change its approach when it comes to trade policy.

Commented Reineke Hameleers, CEO, Eurogroup for Animals. 

Eurogroup for Animals and World Animal Protection call on financial institutions to right this wrong, by ensuring they have policies and systems in place such as:  

  • Traceability to the point of origin within the supply chain, zero tolerance for deforestation, screening and engaging companies, excluding clear offenders and demonstrating transparency. This should be reflected in the EU’s forthcoming law on due diligence for companies, which should also include animal welfare in its scope.
  • Supporting the transition to a humane and sustainable food system by implementing FARMS farm animal welfare standards as a minimum, halving investments in animal protein by 2040, and phasing out support for monocrops like soya as feed for farm animals.  

 The Mercosur agreement should be renegotiated in order to include amongst other things: 

  • Animal welfare conditions for all trade preferences granted to animal products. 
  • A recognition of the precautionary principle in the field of food safety.
  • A review of the market access offer to further limit the volume granted in tariff-rate quotas (TRQs) for animal based products, especially for bovine and chicken meat.
  • The clarification that provisions on marking and labelling do not pre-empt the EU from adopting a method of production label that would apply to imports.
  • Proper monitoring mechanisms to assess the impact of the trade deal’s implementation on the animals, the environment and the people, and the introduction of tools which would allow to revert the negative impact that could be detected by these mechanisms. This could be done by strengthening the Trade and Sustainable Development chapter and its enforcement mechanisms.
  • The forthcoming “EU deforestation law” from the European Commission must prevent the importation of all goods linked with deforestation, including meat and animal feed such as soy.


Read the WAP report Big meat. Big bucks. Bigger harm.

Read Eurogroup for Animals briefing Mercosur, Animal Protection in EU Trade Negotiations

Press contacts
Agnese Marcon, Interim Communications Manager, Eurogroup for Animals
+32 (0) 456 078 038

David Garrahy, EU Manager, World Animal Protection
+32 (0)470 174 487

Eurogroup for Animals represents 70 animal advocacy organisations in 26 EU Member States, Switzerland, Serbia, Norway, Australia and the USA. Since its inception in 1980, the organisation has succeeded in encouraging the EU to adopt higher legal standards for animal protection. Eurogroup for Animals reflects public opinion through its membership organisations’ affiliations across the Union, and has both the scientific and technical expertise to provide authoritative advice on issues relating to animal welfare. 

World Animal Protection’s mission is to create a better world for animals
We end the needless suffering of animals
We influence decision makers to put animals on the global agenda
We help the world see how important animals are to all of us
We inspire people to change animals’ lives for the better
We move the world to protect animals