This relates to

Triodos Bank NV ("the Bank")

Various organisations to which it has lent money

One of its former investing customers, referred to as Mr B

Mr Peter J Winchester, who wrote to the Manchester Metro News in April 2008 re: cruelty to animals

Mr Arthur G Braithwaite, who wrote to the Stretford and Urmston Messenger (a newspaper which covers part of Trafford, which is one of the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester) in May 2008 re: cruelty to animals

The Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative Parties

The Bank describes itself as “ethical”and few would disagree that most of its loans have been used for good purposes but read on...

All information herein relating to the correspondence between Mr B and the Bank is based solely on papers produced by Mr B.  We have not contacted the Bank.

In a letter of 12 November 2007 to the Bank, Mr B wrote the following, referring to a booklet which had recently been published by the Bank:

"From the booklet "Inspiring Change 2007/8", it appears likely that most of the Bank's borrowing customers will be using their loans only for purposes of which I would approve but that a few will not.

Consider, for example, Gateway Christian Fellowship, which will probably be using its loan partly to enable people to preach that Jesus walked on water, created food miraculously, came back to life after his death etc. These beliefs (all of which I consider very unlikely to be true) may seem harmless but they are often used, indirectly, to encourage discrimination against gays and promote fatuous objections to abortion, euthanasia and scientific research."

In a further letter, of 16 November 2007, which probably crossed with the Bank's reply to the earlier one, he suggested that the Bank adopt the following policy:

"No application for a loan shall be considered unless it includes an undertaking by or on behalf of the prospective borrower, or prospective borrowers jointly and severally, as the case may be, not to present as a fact any assertion not proven beyond reasonable doubt and not to assist any person directly or indirectly to do so.

However, no such undertaking shall be construed to prohibit anyone
(a) truthfully describing anything he or she has witnessed, or
(b) arranging or participating in the arrangement of any discussion reasonably expected by him or her to be chaired competently and impartially, or
(c) expressing any genuinely held belief as a participant but not as Chair in a chaired discussion."

It became clear later that the Bank was unwilling to do so.

The main parts of the Bank's reply were as follows:

"Triodos Bank's lending policy, across all sectors, specifically requires that the group offer positive social impact to the wider community without discrimination.  It is our standard procedure to gain an understanding of into the activities of any organisation before pursuing an application for a facility.  In addition, our Social and Spiritual team have a separate Faith Group policy to ensure that while we do not discriminate against organisations that benefit the community or environment because of the beliefs they hold, we also do not encourage or support activities which would lead to the sorts of prejudice you describe in your letter.

The group you use as an example was advanced a loan in 2000 for the purchase of a piece of land as the site for the construction of a centre incorporating a nursery, large community hall, a kitchen, a second smaller hall, community education rooms and an IT suite.  We review our lending facilities regularly and a relationship manager checks that all the information previously provided is still correct, not only to ensure the financial viability of the group but also to understand that they continue to have the positive impact they aimed to achieve."

The two paragraphs immediately above are hereinafter referred to as, respectively, the third and fourth paragraphs of the Bank's letter of 19 November 2007.

In a reply of 23 November 2007, Mr B stated:

"There is no rational basis for the Bank's policy of non-discrimination on grounds of belief and it could do harm."

The correspondence which ensued is reproduced below.

29 November 2007
Dear Mr
Social Sector Lending Policy
Thank you for your letter of 23 November 2007, which further examines the question of our lending policy to faith organisations.
We appreciate your comments and try to ensure that all of our projects meet the expectations of all our savers, however, we realise that this cannot always be the case.  In order for you to feel more comfortable with the use of your savings you may wish to consider transferring your funds to an alternative account type where the money would be used to support projects you feel are more inline with your own values.  I enclose a leaflet on our Triodos Charity Saver.  This account type allows you to target your funds in a particular area, such as renewable energy projects or organic farming.
If you wish to make this switch, please complete the form detailing your account details and indicating that you would like to transfer all your funds and close your existing account.
I hope this draws this matter to a satisfactory conclusion.  If you wish to discuss the alternative accounts or raise any further points, please contact me on 0117 9809 774.
Yours sincerely,
Kate Tiplady
Business Banking Co-ordinator
Triodos Bank
Enclosures: Chanty Saver form, pre-paid envelope

Explanatory Note
The following is an extract from a leaflet re: the Triodos Charity Saver Account:  "When you open your Triodos Charity Saver Account, Triodos Bank will donate the equivalent of 0.25% of the average balance of funds held in your account each year, to your chosen charity, listed overleaf."  Nine charities are listed.  There is also an option to automatically donate some or all of the interest to one's chosen charity.

20 January 2008
Dear Ms Tiplady
Thank you for your letter of 29 November 2007.
Your suggestion is bizarre.  I have pointed out a fundamental fault in the Bank's lending policy and you have suggested that I do something which might result in better use of a few pounds per year!
The bank is misleading the public by describing itself as "ethical".  A truthful description would be "partly ethical"*.
From the fourth paragraph of your letter of 19 November 2007, it appears that the loan to Gateway Christian Fellowship has done some good but it has probably also done some harm, by facilitating the spread of faulty habits of thought, especially to children.  The consequences of faulty habits of thought can be far-reaching and complex.  I do not know whether the loan has done more harm than good.  Do you?
The last sentence of the third paragraph of your letter of 19 November 2007 does not make sense.  Any policy of the Bank not to support a particular activity must, actually or potentially, require the Bank to discriminate on grounds of belief (against people who believe that they should participate in that activity and perhaps other people).
This leads me to an important request:
Please assure me that the Bank will not lend money to, or for use by, any organisation which condones the slaughter of animals by cutting their throats whilst they are conscious.
Whatever your response, please display the whole of this correspondence, starting with my letter of 12 November 2007, on your website.
Yours sincerely

*This is based on my understanding of the word "ethical".

11 March 2008
Dear Ms Tiplady
I have still not received a reply to my letter of 20 January 2008 (copy attached),
Yours sincerely

27 August 2008
Dear Ms Tiplady,
I have still not received a reply to my letter of 20 January 2008, despite my reminder of 11 March 2008, sent by Recorded Delivery.
I hereby give the required one year's notice of closure of my Triodos Saver Account No.XXXXXXXX.
With reference to the last sentence of my letter of 20 January 2008, I hereby withdraw my consent to publication, by the Bank, of my name.
I wonder how many of the Bank's investing customers would keep their accounts open if they were aware of its failure to give the assurance requested in my letter of 20 January 2008.
Yours sincerely

29 August 2008
Dear Mr
Triodos Saver
We are sorry to hear that you wish to close your Triodos Bank account.  We have logged the closure to take place on 20 January 2009 as we have taken the notice to start from the date of your original letter to Kate Tiplady.  However we require additional information from you in order to complete your request.
As we do not issue cheques for withdrawals, we need to ask you to confirm the details of the account to which you would like the closing balance of your Triodos account to be transferred.
Please complete and sign the attached closure amendment form, and return it to us by the date specified. If we have not received the form by this date, we will be unable to close your account and your request will need to be cancelled.  Please use our freepost address as follows: Triodos Bank, FREEPOST BS9292, Clifton, Bristol BS8 3BR, (no stamp required).
Please call our Customer Services team on 0845 769 7239 if you have any questions.
Yours sincerely,
Mike Lunn
Customer Service Co-Worker
Triodos Bank
Enclosures: Account closure notification

We have Recorded Delivery receipts, provided by Mr B, dated 11 March 2008 and 27 August 2008 for items addressed to the Bank.  We also have records, from the Royal Mail website, showing that both were delivered.  

The Bank's letter of 29 August 2008 conspicuously omits to address any of the issues raised in Mr B's letter of  20 January 2008.  Furthermore, it has not complied with the request at the end of that letter, nor has it even mentioned, on its website or in its mail to customers,  Mr B's criticism of its lending policy or its failure to give the assurance he requested re: slaughter of animals.  The  Bank's behaviour in these respects does not sit well with its much-publicised claims to be “transparent”.

In late September 2008, our representative asked Mr B some questions, which are shown below, with the answers.

Rep:    It appears that you want the Bank to discriminate on grounds of religion.  Is this correct?

Mr B:  It depends on what you mean by “discriminate on grounds of religion”.  The policy I suggested in November 2007 did not mention religion, nor did my later request regarding slaughter.  I do not want the Bank to have any policy which mentions religion.  I want it to have policies designed to prevent its loans from being used wholly or partly for purposes I regard as undesirable, whether or not related to religion.  I do, consequently, want the Bank to sometimes discriminate on grounds of belief but not to classify beliefs as “religious” or otherwise.

Rep:    In your opinion, should employers ever discriminate against job applicants on grounds of belief?

Mr B:  Only rarely.  For example, a university should not employ, as a geology lecturer, someone who preaches that the earth was created a few thousand years ago.4

Rep:    As regards the slaughter of animals, has the Bank ever lent money to any organisation of the type referred to in the last paragraph of your letter of 20 January 2008?

Mr B:  Not to my knowledge but the Bank's policies, as described in its letter of 19 November 2007, imply that it could and its persistent evasion of the issue is disturbing.

Rep:    Have you decided what to do with the money you are due to receive from the Bank next year?

Mr B:  No.  I'll decide next year but I might add to my existing ethical investments.  

Rep:    What are they?

Mr B:  I have shares in the Triodos Renewable Energy Fund plc (  It is, of course, connected with the Bank but my criticisms of the Bank have little relevance to my opinion of the company's ethics.  I also have shares in Wensleydale Railway plc (  I warn investors that I regard the latter as quite risky but with great long term potential.  One way to invest ethically is to invest directly in some of the good organisations to which the Bank has lent money, although I have not yet done so myself.  An example is Unicorn Grocery Ltd. in Manchester ( which is run by a workers' co-operative with a good record.  It sometimes raises money to extend its range of activities.  I have accounts with three building societies.  I am quite pleased with their ethics3 but they, in common with many other building societies, have, in my opinion, unsatisfactory policies on directors' remuneration.  I should like many of the directors to have much lower basic salaries but opportunities to earn much greater performance-related bonuses.1  It is open to members to speak and / or vote at meetings to influence the societies' policies.

1Addendum 20 February 2009
In  view of the recent controversy over bonuses paid to directors, etc. of financial institutions, we have asked Mr B whether he has changed his opinion and he has responded thus:
"I haven't changed my opinion but I should have mentioned the importance of having "performance" suitably defined, to prevent any director from being rewarded for causing a building society to take an unreasonable risk and, indeed, to have him or her penalised for doing so.  However, building societies, broadly speaking, throughout their histories, have not often taken unreasonable risks."

2Addendum 8 February 2011
Mr B has ceased to classify Wensleydale Railway plc as "ethical".  His explanation is as follows:  "It has come to my attention that the company does not have a policy acceptable to me on purchasing for its catering services.  This matters particularly in relation to animal products."

3Addendum 11 October 2011
Mr B is not pleased with the ethics of the Skipton Building Society.  See the article on it on this website.

4 Addendum 16 January 2015
At least some universites have policies which would prohibit discrimination against such a person on grounds of belief!

5 Addendum 17 June 2016
Several years ago, the company was re-named "Triodos Renewables plc" but remained, technically, controlled by the Bank.  However, in February 2016, it was re-named "Thrive Renewables plc" and ceased to be technically controlled by the Bank.  Its website address is now

Do you have a current account with another bank and, if so, could you comment on its ethics?    

Mr B:  It would be very difficult to manage my affairs without a current account.  I have one with NatWest but I manage it carefully so that I rarely have more than £1000 in it.  The bank allows me a huge credit zone but I rarely use much of it.  I haven't studied the bank's ethical record but it couldn't be making more than £30 per year from the account and I consider it unlikely that I have ever caused any significant harm by having the account.

Mr B is one of many people who want a ban on the practice of cutting animals' throats whilst they are conscious.  Many letters on this subject were published in local newspapers in Greater Manchester in 2008.  For example, one from a Mr Peter J Winchester, published in the Manchester Metro News on 25 April 2008, described as “crackpots” people who advocated the practice.  Remarkably, no response from any of the “crackpots”, in defence of the practice, ever appeared!  Another, from a Mr Arthur G Braithwaite to the Stretford and Urmston Messenger, is reproduced in full below, with his permission.  It was published, in a slightly edited form, in the edition of 15 May 2008.  (It was prompted by a front page article, in the previous week's edition, regarding ill-treatment of a horse.)

Dear Madam

Re: your front page article “Samson saved from abuse and neglect” (8 May), it is disgraceful that a horse has been treated so badly but people should have their priorities right.  Every year, millions of sheep, cattle, chickens etc. in the UK (and far more elsewhere) suffer terribly during Islamic and Jewish ritual slaughter.  It is lawful, under “religious exemptions” from the law on slaughter, to cut an animal's throat without having first stunned it.

The RSPCA and many individuals have campaigned for many years to have these “religious exemptions” abolished but the Labour, Lib. Dem. and Conservative parties are all unwilling to call for their abolition.  If the leader of one of these parties were shown on TV ill-treating a horse, there would be an outcry and millions would demand his resignation but relatively few people show much concern for animals cruelly slaughtered under the “religious exemptions”.  If even a few per cent of the voters in the UK who deplore cruelty to animals were to withold their votes from candidates with unsatisfactory records on this issue and publicise their decisions to do so, this type of cruelty would soon be banned.
Yours sincerely

Arthur G Braithwaite


Mr Braithwaite is not unusual in being dissatisfied with all three main political parties.  Many individuals and organisations have criticised them all, in relation to various issues.  In particular (as reported in the Spring 2008 edition of the Woodland Trust magazine "Broadleaf"), nine well-known environmental organisations have done so.

The Bank sent circulars to customers in early September 2008, in envelopes labelled "Triodos Bank, 100% ethical savings".  Mr B described this as "propaganda".

Addendum 12 January 2011

Today, we asked Mr Braithwaite the following question:  "If you were to see a newspaper article, published today, similar to the one which prompted you to write to the Stretford and Urmston Messenger in May 2008, would you respond similarly?"  He answered "Yes, but with additions.  None of the present leaders of the three main parties has ever publicly objected to the religious exemptions.  Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron all appal me.  I would add something about the bizarre behaviour of the RSPCA referred to in the next article on your website and about the failure of the European Parliament6 to take a stand against this type of cruelty."
We also invited him to comment on calls for compulsory labelling of meat to indicate the method of slaughter and thereby enable customers to make informed choices.  He said "Such labelling would probably
do harm as well as good; some people want to buy meat from animals killed under the religious exemptions.  Overall, it would probably do more good than harm but it would be a very poor substitute for abolition of the religious exemptions.  People should not be able to buy meat from inhumanely killed animals.  Consumer choice is not always desirable."

6 Addendum 17 June 2016
An undercover investigation, by staff of Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk (, of an abattoir in which animals were slaughtered under the religious exemptions, prompted an article in the Sunday Mirror of 1 May 2016 (  Much of the cruelty filmed by the investigators was illegal and unrelated to religion but the case highlighted the fact that the European Parliament has not only failed to take a stand against slaughter without prior stunning but has used taxpayers' money to promote it.  (The company which owned the abattoir had received a subsidy from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, through the Government's Rural Development Programme for England.)   

To date (17 June 2016), neither the Labour, Liberal Democrat nor Conservative party has published any objection to the practice of cutting animals' throats whilst they are conscious.

Last updated 17 June 2016