The world’s second-largest beef company and largest burger producer, Marfrig, could soon receive a $43 million loan of public funds. Nearly 200 NGOs are fighting to block the move, arguing that the money will accelerate the meat producer’s environmental destruction.
The private arm of the InterAmerican Development Bank (IDB) Group, IDB Invest, must approve the investment before it can move forward. Though the initial loan is for $43 million, it’s intended to leverage a much heftier loan package of $157 million, a press release says.
Sustainable production chain
Marfrig is expected to use the funds to kick off its Verde+ Plan.
According to the meat giant, the program aims to help Marfrig build a ‘100 percent’ sustainable production chain that is free from deforestation within the next 10 years.
But not everyone is convinced of the company’s intentions.
Marfrig has a “history of failed commitments,” according to the Divest Factory Farming Campaign, a coalition of human rights, environmental, developmental, and animal protection advocacy groups. Its committee members include the Bank Information Center, Friends of the Earth US, Feedback Global, The Global Forest Coalition, Sinergia Animal, and World Animal Protection, among others.
The organization works alongside impacted communities to divert financial resources away from industrial livestock producers.
According to Divest Factory Farming, Marfrig has a history of corruption and human rights violations. For instance, it says that Marfrig has sourced cattle from illegal ranches within Indigenous peoples’ territories in the Amazon.
And ultimately, “detrimental activities such as factory farming should not be funded with public money,” it says.
A growing bank of research is linking factory farming to severe deforestation, emission output, pollution, and biodiversity loss. Further, animal farming typically requires vast amounts of water and feed, draining more from the increasingly resource-constrained planet.
As such, Divest Factory Farming has penned an open letter to IDB Invest’s board of directors. The letter, signed by 200 NGOs, implores the company to not approve the $43 million loan.
Merel van der Mark is the head of animal welfare and finances at Sinergia Animal, which signed the letter. They said in a statement: “The loan would represent a double victory for Marfrig: not only they will get to expand their destructive operations, they will do this with a plan that is nothing more than greenwashing – good for the corporation’s image and sales, but terrible for the animals, environment, and people.”
International Accountability Project also signed the letter. Alexandre Andrade Sampaio, Policy and Programs Coordinator there, warns that the issue is more widespread than Marfrig.
“Despite their vows, and the evident link between factory farms, the climate crisis, and the deterioration in pursuit of the development goals, Marfrig is not an isolated case when it comes to attempts by development banks to fund these types of ventures,” Sampaio said.