Viva La Vegan!

What exactly is cruelty free money?

It is an investment screening concept I developed in the UK over 20 years ago.  In simple terms, it is an investment strategy which adopts the standard ethical investment values PLUS completely avoiding all forms of animal exploitation.  The main areas covered are:

  • Meat and Dairy production
  • Animal Testing
  • Use of animal by-products

In some circles the most controversial of the three areas listed above is Animal Testing.  To be completely cruelty free an investment fund needs to avoid all animal testing.  If some animal testing is allowed (medical areas for example) it is difficult for a fund to claim to be cruelty free because some underlying investments will be using and exploiting animals.

I have often heard and read that some animal exploitation is necessarily and even ‘legally required’.  This is often used to justify a fund adopting a quasi-cruelty free stance whilst still allowing investment in companies using animals for profit. The “it is legally required” argument is used to justify the investments. 

The significant flaw in this argument is that it is used highly selectively; the same ethical fund probably avoids investment in companies making weapons, producing tobacco or those significantly contributing to climate change. All of these activities are legal, but a moral position has been adopted by the fund and these areas are avoided.  The same moral position could also be adopted by the same fund to avoid companies which test on animals, whether it is ‘”legally required” or not.  The question is not about what is and isn’t legal – factory farming is legal – it is about where a fund decides to draw a line in the sand.

If one recognises that the most influential part of modern life, like it or not, is the money system, then until this changes, animals, humans and the environment will continue to be abused in the name of profit. Cruelty Free Money principles aim to maximise long term profits balanced with concern and respect for wider social concerns. In my view, for an investment fund to be called cruelty free, it needs to be completely free of commercial exploitation of animals.

After over 20 years of success promotion of my cruelty free money ideas in the UK I decided to bring the same ideals to Australia.  With an excellent compulsory Superannuation system in place, Australians are accumulating vast sums over their lifetime within their Superfunds.  This personal wealth should, I believe, be invested in a way which meets the personal values of each individual.  For those who have chosen to lead a cruelty free lifestyle, it is critical that their money is not financing areas which individuals would deem to be exploiting animals.

So, in 2010 I launched a unique Superannuation fund – Cruelty Free Super.  The standard ethical criteria are applied (arms, human rights abuse, environmental damage etc.) but at the fund’s core are the cruelty free money principles.  Not only is Cruelty Free Super Australia’s first truly holistic ethical investment fund, its focus on being marketed directly to consumer via social media is also a first.

With Cruelty Free Super now over three years old with an excellent investment track record and new members joining to join every week, it is time to consider other cruelty free financial options. I am currently working with a small number of financial institutions to develop a cruelty free banking option and we also hope to launch the Cruelty Free Investment Fund shortly.  The latter will allow anyone who wishes to invest for the long term, outside of Super, or those with a Self-Managed Super, to invest their money in line with their cruelty free lifestyle.  Further information on the cruelty free investment fund and the launch date will be provided via our Facebook and Twitter pages – please make sure that you are following us to get the information as soon as it is released.

Another benefit of the launch of a cruelty free investment fund is that it will be able to be used by those living a cruelty free lifestyle in New Zealand.  As the principle of cross-border financial services develops between Australia and New Zealand, it will be easier for residents of NZ to invest in products such as the cruelty free investment fund.  This is a fantastic opportunity to continue the global spread of cruelty free money.

Lee_Coates_midLee Coates OBE is Director of Ethical Money Pty Ltd, an Australian registered financial services business and promoter of Cruelty Free Super.

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