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Animals are a much used and largely invisible constituent in business. A wide swathe of industries and sectors rely on animals and animal derived products in their manufacturing supply chains. Whilst food is only the most obvious, animals are used in a multiplicity of ways that go farther than perhaps many realise – from leather and down, to the animal fats and musks in cosmetics and the use of animal body parts in traditional medicine, to the use of animal enzymes in medicine and biotechnology.

Introduction

Neville White Neville White Head of RI Policy & Research
Edentree Insight reports

Animals, Business & Investment

Neville White


Head of RI Policy & Research
23 Jun 2020

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Chapter 1

Introduction

Animals are a much used and largely invisible constituent in business. A wide swathe of industries and sectors rely on animals and animal derived products in their manufacturing supply chains. Whilst food is only the most obvious, animals are used in a multiplicity of ways that go farther than perhaps many realise – from leather and down, to the animal fats and musks in cosmetics and the use of animal body parts in traditional medicine, to the use of animal enzymes in medicine and biotechnology.

This wide-ranging EdenTree Insight looks in turn at the myriad ways animals are utilised in and by business, and brings together in one place for clients our House thinking on issues such as animal testing, intensive farming and welfare. In looking at these in turn, we show clearly where we would not invest, but the Insight also considers where positive opportunities exist in the field of genetics, companion animals and pharmaceuticals, where welfare need not be compromised.

Although business impact on nature and biodiversity lies beyond the scope of this particular Insight, the disturbing evidence presented by the United Nations and in the UK’s State of Nature Report cannot be ignored – and in an Afterword, we point to the role business can and must play in ‘making space for nature’ – a subject as investors we expect to return to.

We were among the earliest investors to support the ground-breaking Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, and we are delighted our friends at BBFAW have written the foreword to this, our 37th Insight. We are justly proud of putting animal welfare at the heart of our investment considerations, and as ever we hope you enjoy reading this Insight, and welcome your feedback.

Whilst food is only the most obvious, animals are used in a multiplicity of ways that go farther than perhaps many realise – from leather and down, to the animal fats and musks in cosmetics and the use of animal body parts in traditional medicine, to the use of animal enzymes in medicine and biotechnology. 

A Word on COVID-19 

At the time of writing (early June), Europe was beginning, tentatively, to emerge from over six weeks of lockdown resulting from the COVID-19 virus which has affected communities across the world. 

As well as the terrible human cost in lives (405,000+ currently), the majority of normal economic activity has ceased from live performance, to car manufacturing to getting a haircut. One would need to combine the effects of the Great Influenza Epidemic of 1918, the Great Depression of 1929 and the wartime economy of 1939-45 to gain some semblance of the impact of this strain of coronavirus on normal social and economic life. ‘Best evidence’ strongly leads towards this strain evolving in nature and jumping species, but it is important to stress that its definitive origins are still open to conjecture. Markets that trade wild animals as well as pets and farm animals are ideal vectors for pathogen transfer, such as SARS (2002-03). Again, best evidence suggests COVID-19 having far greater efficiency in infection transfer than influenza, for instance infection transfer from contact with door knobs or dishes. There are indications that the current coronavirus outbreak may have spread to humans from a live animal market in Wuhan, China, and continuing conjecture that the virus may have potentially originated in species such as bats. We have not seen any scientific evidence that conclusively proves this route, but it is the most likely origin and where the broad consensus of scientific opinion has so far settled. The relevance for this Insight is to consider, perhaps more urgently than ever, our relationship with nature, its treatment and wellbeing and the fundamental principles of animal welfare.

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