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Beef production drives massive illegal deforestation
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British shoppers are unwittingly supporting the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. A three-year, undercover investigation by Greenpeace into Brazil’s booming cattle industry has exposed links between some of Britain’s biggest brands and the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
Beef production drives massive illegal deforestation

Cattle ranching in the Amazon region is now the single biggest cause of deforestation in the world, and the expansion of this industry is being driven by the global export market.

The cattle sector in the Amazon accounts for nearly 14% of annual deforestation (1.72 million ha/yr Amazon deforestation attributable to cattle and 12.57 million ha/yr of world gross deforestation). The beef export market grew six fold between 1998 and 2008. By 2018, beef exports are expected to increase 93%, boosting Brazil’s beef market share of world exports to 61%.

The report also reveals how the Brazilian government has offered billions of dollars in loans to support the expansion of the cattle industry, despite its massive environmental impact. This investment severely undermines Brazil’s claims to be reducing deforestation, and jeopardises international efforts to protect the Amazon.

The new Greenpeace report, entitled Slaughtering the Amazon, tracks beef and leather products on their journey from farms involved in illegal deforestation and in some cases slavery, via giant processing facilities to the supply chains of global brands such as, Tesco, Adidas / Reebok, Nike, Clark’s, BMW, Carrefour, Eurostar, Ford, Honda, Gucci, IKEA, Kraft, and Wal-Mart.

Reacting to the report, Greenpeace forest campaigner Sarah Shoraka said: “Running shoes, handbags and ready meals aren’t normally associated with rainforest destruction and climate change, but we’ve found a smoking gun. This new evidence shows how UK companies are driving the destruction of the Amazon by buying beef and leather products from unscrupulous suppliers in Brazil. These products are ending up on our shelves.”

Shoraka continued: “The cattle industry is the single biggest cause of deforestation in the world and is a disaster for the fight against climate change. Big companies must take a stand and stop doing business with the worst offenders immediately.”

Deforestation is seen as an international priority in negotiations for a new climate change agreement, likely to be agreed at Copenhagen in December this year. Major international corporations and Governments are undermining efforts to tackle this issue through their links to deforestation and the cattle industry in Brazil.

40% of the UK’s processed beef (prepared, cooked or tinned) comes from Brazil. Nearly 90% of this comes from Bertin, JBS or Marfrig – three companies who knowingly buy significant volumes of cattle from farms engaged in recent and illegal deforestation. The massive popularity of ready meals in the UK (this country represents the largest market in the EU) along with our consumption of canned beef and leather products is contributing to a boom in global demand for Brazilian cattle.

For example, the report explains how a claim made by corned beef manufacturer Prince’s - that all of the meat used in their products is from long-established ranch areas – is in direct contrast to recent evidence which shows their suppliers accepting products from cattle farms involved in Amazon deforestation.

The evidence uncovered also exposes a key contradiction in the public statements of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, who has pledged to double his country’s share of the global beef market by 2018 and whose Government has invested heavily in Bertin, JBS and Marfrig. The report contrasts these investments with his recent promise to cut deforestation by 72% by the same date and to set up an international fund for protecting the Amazon.

Greenpeace is calling on President Lula to introduce an immediate moratorium on further deforestation for cattle ranching, and to commit to zero deforestation in the Amazon by 2015. UK companies should immediately stop purchasing from Brazilian suppliers who refuse to commit to cleaning up their supply chains and must support a moratorium on all deforestation for cattle ranching.

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