Dear Rabobank employee,

Doubtlessly there are many Rabo employees who are doing what they can to make this world a better place. Chances are that you also worry about climate change and the decline in biodiversity. And that you too want to fill your shopping basket with products that are good for farmers and animal welfare. In that case I have good news for you. Because you really can turn the words ‘Growing a better world together‘ into sustainable deeds.

We put down some spearheads for a better world – hopefully they are yours as well:
  1. Ensuring a good and viable climate for future generations;
  2. Maintaining biodiversity and promoting nature on and around farmlands;
  3. Putting the farmer’s knowledge and expertise back in the picture;
  4. Encouraging a thriving social economic position for farming families;
  5. Ensuring livestock animals have a good life;
  6. Creating a healthy food system with more room for plant-based foods.

As you probably already know, the current production of meat and dairy products is standing in the way of achieving all of these spearheads. Rabobank’s policy has a lot of influence on the way this industry works. Your employer finances companies at all levels of the food chain – Rabo is involved in as much as 85% of the agricultural sector in our country. That influence implies that Rabobank is partly responsible for the crisis in which this industry now finds itself. At the same time it means that Rabobank also has the key to solving these problems. That’s why we want to give you the following ‘food for thought’.

Did you know that …

Meat bubble

… intensive animal farming is so fraught with problems that financial experts and investors like Robeco, Nationale Nederlanden, Actiam and Triodos regard investments in the meat industry as a long term financial risk [1, 2]? The risks involve, among other things, food scandals, the sector’s huge footprint on the climate and the environment, and the health issues connected to high meat consumption. Putting money into this industry is being compared to the real estate bubble and the dot-com bubble.

Climate change

…in order to prevent catastrophic climate change, our society has to make big changes… Experts [3, 4, 5] point out that our consumption and production of meat and dairy needs to be drastically reduced in order to achieve the agreed climate targets.

Biodiversity

… the production of animal feed and grazing is the main cause of the expansion of agricultural land at the expense of nature all over the world [6]. In order to stop the decline of biodiversity and to call a halt to deforestation, we need to change our menu. We need to create more room for birds, insects and other nature on Dutch farmland. It is essential we reduce the emission of fertilizers if we want a healthy environment in the Netherlands [7, 8, 9].

Health

… food experts point out that our current diet contains unhealthy amounts of (red and processed) meat [10, 11]. Doctors also warn that it is not healthy to live near large livestock barns. Likewise, the sheer number of animals that are being kept in the Netherlands is a problem – new outbreaks of zoonotic disease are a constant threat [12, 13, 14].

Farmer wellbeing

… farmers can’t keep up with the intensification and upscaling. The Dutch farming community has practically halved since the beginning of this century [15]. Almost half of them live below the poverty line [16]. More than 80% of the farmers want their production to be more sustainable, but are trapped in a system that is intent on growing even bigger and increasing intensification [17, 18]. Rabobank’s loans and policies are pivotal in the way this system works.

 Do you agree it is important to have an ecological food system with significantly fewer animals? Great! You can do your bit towards achieving this right here at work by discussing your employer’s current course (in your team, on your coffee break, over lunch). Turn Rabobank into a real farmers’ bank again; a bank that stops intensifying, scaling up and producing more meat; a bank that paves the way towards a future of ecological agriculture and reduced livestock.

Thank you for your time.

Herman van Bekkem, Agriculture Campaigner at Greenpeace Netherlands

If you would like to talk about these issues you can contact me at:

herman.van.bekkem@greenpeace.org or 06-29001140

—- You can read more about our campaign and download the report ‘De Vleeskoorts van Rabobank’ (in Dutch) here  —-

References

  1. FAIRR, 2016. Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return – Report:  Factory Farming: Assessing investment risks
  2. Fairr Network
  3. RLI, 2018. Council for the Environment and Infrastructure – Report: Duurzaam en Gezond – Samen naar een houdbaar voedselsysteem.
  4. Rise, 2018.  Rural Investment Support for Europe (RISE) Foundation – Report: What is the safe operating space for EU livestock?
  5. EAT Lancet, 2019. Report:  Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems
  6. Alexander, P. et al., 2015. Drivers for global agricultural land use change: The nexus of diet, population, yield and bioenergy
  7. Kleijn, D. et al., 2018. Wageningen University & Research, Butterfly Conservation & EIS Foundation – Report: Achteruitgang insectenpopulaties in Nederland: trends, oorzaken en kennislacunes.
  8. CBS Statistics Netherlands, 2017. Dutch news article based on data of bird population monitoring: Grutto gaat, grauwe gans komt.
  9. CLO, 2017. Environmental Data Compendium – Article: Herkomst vermestende depositie, 2016
  10. Health Council of the Netherlands, 2015. Report: Richtlijnen Gezonde voeding 2015.
  11. EAT Lancet, 2019. Report:  Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT–Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems
  12. Nivel, 2018. Nivel, University of Utrecht & Wageningen University & Research – Report: Veehouderij en Gezondheid Omwonenden III
  13. Community Health Services Nederland, 2018.  Informatieblad Intensieve Veehouderij en Gezondheid
  14. Interview with former community health services doctor and Q-fever expert Jos van der Sande, Cafe Weltschmerz.
  15. Statistics Netherlands, 2018. Statistics Netherlands Statline: Landbouw; gewassen, dieren en grondgebruik naar hoofdbedrijfstype, regio – Aantal landbouwbedrijven
  16. Wageningen University & Research, 2018. Agrimatie – Report: Meer dan 40% van de agrarische huishoudens onder de lage-inkomensgrens
  17. Geelen Consultancy, 2018. Background on research by daily newspaper Trouw ‘De staat van de boer’ – Article: Nederlandse boer wil omwenteling op platteland
  18. PBL, 2018. Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency – Report: Naar een wenkend perspectief voor de Nederlandse landbouw. Voorwaarden voor verandering.