Animal Writes
© sm
23 June 1999 Issue
Cruelty Free Investing

Some companies are good for animals. Some are bad. Most are somewhere in
between. As cruelty-free investors, we spend a lot of time examining those
companies that fall somewhere in between the two extremes, and then we make
decisions within our own definition of what it means to invest cruelty-free. The
purpose of this article is to examine our currently listed stocks in terms of “those
gray areas”. As always, your comments are welcome.

Most mutual funds and portfolio managers that screen investments for ethical
issues look for companies that, IN THE COURSE OF BUSINESS, meet their
criteria. Is that sufficient?

If a company behaves in an animal-friendly manner during the business day, so
to speak, does it matter what its employees and owners do after work? What if
they show up at pigeon hunts, or wear fur coats in public? Most everyone wears
leather shoes to work, even at the so-called cruelty free companies. And they’re
not all vegans and their cafeterias serve meat. Is the cafeteria considered “in the
course of business?”

When we invest in an ethical manner, we seek to either not benefit from cruelty
(avoidance), invest in alternatives (encouragement), or invest in unethical
companies for the express purpose of changing them from within (activism). Is
an examination of after-work activities relevant to any of these goals? Absolutely!

Avoidance. If we’re uncomfortable investing in an unethical company, then we’re
probably uncomfortable with unethical people as our business partners. Since
company executives are those partners, it seems reasonable to avoid companies
whose executives are seen in public wearing fur coats or attending such anti-
animal events as pigeon hunts -- or hunts in general.

Encouragement. If we’re seeking companies that are working for a more
animal-friendly world, then presumably we have some faith that company
executives share our ethical concerns. If we find, for example, that an avid
supporter of alternatives to animal testing, turns out to be an equally avid hunter,
or that the president of a vegan food company is a major shareholder in a fast-
food company, then we have to question their commitment to the cause, don’t

Activism. The activist is buying stock in an acknowledged offender in the hopes
of changing them for the better. The offensive “after hours” practices is not of
interest to the activist -- unless they attempt to change that practice too. When
they buy the stock, they know what they’re dealing with. Sometimes the more
egregious the offense, the more attractive the stock.

So, is it sufficient to restrict our selection criteria to only those companies that
“behave well” in the normal course of business? No it seems insufficient. Those
who want to avoid companies that harm animals will probably also want to avoid
partnering with out-of-hours offenders. Those who want to own stocks in
companies that benefit animals would probably also find good reason to avoid
such stocks as well. Only the activist, who seeks to change, would buy stock
in companies with bad “after hours” records. Everyone else should consider these
activities as they would any other business practice. Since we can’t verify every
internal decision, isn’t it key that we invest in companies with “enlightened”
management, so we can trust their judgment?

We’ve yet to find a perfectly ethical investment that is acceptable to all investors.
It’s up to each of us to understand the gray areas and then invest within our own
ethical guidelines. If you have any comments on this or any other issue, please
send e-mail ([email protected]) or write us at our new mailing address
11654 Plaza America Drive, #627, Reston, Virginia, 20190, USA

David A. Kodner (MPA, CFS)
Editor and Publisher
Cruelty Free Investment News
11654 Plaza America #627
Reston, Virginia 20190 USA
[email protected]

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