Stevie received a response to her email to Australian Ethical Investment, regard why they invest in pharmaceutical companies. We talk about the Omnivore Myth, and why humans are distinctly herbivorous, and the differences between Gillian McKeith and Nigella Lawson. We wrap it up with a quick rant about palm oil.
Stevie's original email to Australian Ethical Investment:
Their reply:According to your charter you “seek out investments which provide for and support … the dignity and well being of non-human animals”. You also claim that you “shall avoid any investment which is considered to unnecessarily... extract, create, produce, manufacture, or market materials, products, goods or services which have a harmful effect on humans, non-human animals or the environment”. However, you specifically invest in pharmaceutical companies which practice non-human animal testing. This seems contrary to your claims that you support animal welfare. Please explain the apparent discrepancy between your values and your investments on this matter.
Thank you very much for your recent enquiry re animal testing.
Australian Ethical Investment has been operating for over 24 years and is generally regarded as one of Australia’s ‘deepest green’ fund managers. We take the ethics of every one of our potential investments very seriously.
Australian Ethical’s investments are chosen according to our public statement of principles, the Australian Ethical Charter. You can review the Charter on our website: http://www.australianethical.
We also do our best to operate our business according to the Charter:
- we give 10% of our profits to charity each year;
- we are one of the smallest companies in Australia to publish a sustainability report (available for download from the website); and
- we have an extensive employee share ownership program.
As you have noted, the Australian Ethical Charter makes the following specific reference to animals:
“The Trusts shall seek out investments which provide for and support: (i) the dignity and well being of non-human animals.”
This is a positive element of the Charter – in other words Australian Ethical seeks out investments that do positive things for animal welfare – as a result we have invested in biodynamic farms, we were an early supporter of Earth Sanctuaries Ltd, and are a long-term supporter of Blackmores Ltd to name some examples.
The Australian Ethical Charter also states: “The Trusts shall avoid any investment which is considered to unnecessarily: (iii) extract, create, produce, manufacture, or market materials, products, goods or services which have a harmful effect on humans, non-human animals or the environment.”
Australian Ethical has a track record of avoiding investments that have unnecessarily harmful effects on animals. For example:
- publicly selling out of Timbercorp after they cleared remnant trees that were marked as endangered bird habitat;
- avoiding a potential university-based investment on the grounds that the money may have been used to house facilities for experimentation on primates.
Having said that, Australian Ethical does invest in medical companies, based on part (h) of the Charter that encourages us to seek out investments that support human happiness, dignity and education. While one can clearly regard medicines as a positive under this Charter element, unfortunately experimentation is frequently required by regulators as a condition of developing a medicine - and in many cases this experimentation is done using animal models.
Australian Ethical uses a rigorous process to consider how well investments meet the terms of the Charter, and in particular whether they unnecessarily have a harmful effect on animals.
In an ideal world animal testing would not be required at all, but Australian Ethical’s judgment to date has been:
- there are genuine positives under the Charter relating to human healthcare.
- we regard various animal testing practices as serious negatives, in particular animal testing for cosmetic purposes.
Australian Ethical has also actively engaged with companies we invest in to encourage them to develop strong public animal testing policies.
Everyone's ethics are different, and in some cases it is a very difficult balancing act. Hopefully you will agree that we do our best to maximise the transparency of our investment processes - more often than not investment managers will not even disclose what their investments are - or certainly not delve into/undertake the type of due diligence we do in regards many of the issues raised. Australian Ethical's portfolio demonstrates that we have managed this process successfully in the past, and will continue to do our best to do so in the future.
If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to drop us a line.
I trust this response covers all the areas addressed in your email.
With best wishes
Australian Ethical Investment
P 1800 021 227
- Vegetarian Resource Group "Humans are Omnivores": http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/omni.htm
- VegSource "Comparative Anatomy": http://www.vegsource.com/news/2009/11/the-comparative-anatomy-of-eating.html
- Wikipedia article on Omnivorism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnivore
- RSPO: http://www.rspo.org/
- Palm Oil Action: http://www.palmoilaction.org.au/
- Melbourne Zoos "Don't Palm Us Off": http://www.zoo.org.au/PalmOil
This is someone else's reply:
We mentioned bonobos in this episode, so here's a video from the BBC doco "Chimps Are People Too". While we are in two minds about this sort of experimentation, the findings from it give us some great insights.