Orange County for Climate Action sent this letter to CalPERS, CalSTRS & Gov. Jerry Brown in July 2016
We, the undersigned, believe that bold and urgent actions are required to combat the effects of looming catastrophic climate change. As an example of such actions, we are pleased that California law now requires the state’s two largest pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, to divest from investment in coal companies.
However, similar issues exist with respect to investments in animal agriculture companies such as Tyson Foods, ConAgra, and Smithfield Foods. The adverse effects of factory farming and industrial scale meat production on our air, water, land, natural resources, health, and climate are as great, or greater than, the effects of coal. In particular, methane and nitrous oxide from animal agriculture are more potent as greenhouse gases in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.
A recent study for the European Union finds that, in order to meet the 2050 targets agreed to in Paris last year, cuts in beef and mutton consumption of 50 percent or more may be necessary; only in the most optimistic of scenarios can technology alone meet the EU targets. Consistent with these findings, the Netherlands has issued new dietary guidelines recommending that a person should consume no more than 500 grams of meat per week; of this, no more than 300 grams should be red meat.
In light of all these concerns, animal agriculture is, increasingly, a bad investment on purely fiscal grounds. Jeremy Collier, founder of the FAIRR Initiative (Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return), states, “Increasingly, major investors are paying attention to factory farming’s risks and incorporating them into their decisions.” One such investor is ING, which has adopted strict standards for evaluating investment in animal agriculture on animal welfare grounds.
FAIRR issued a detailed, well-researched report in December 2015 identifying twenty-eight environmental, social, and governance issues associated with animal agriculture. Among these issues are climate change, water and air pollution, poor animal welfare, human rights, community health impacts, and poor working conditions. The full report is available at http://www.fairr.org/.
Thus, we believe that factory farming is a bad investment on environmental, moral, and fiscal grounds. We urge CalPERS and CalSTRS to follow their own example of coal divestment and do the socially and fiscally responsible “right thing” by divesting from all companies within their portfolios that are engaged in factory-scale animal agriculture and meat production.
Orange County for Climate Action