Beef driving rainforest destruction, says Greenpeace

UK retailers are fuelling the destruction of the Amazon rainforest by sourcing beef from suppliers linked to illegal deforestation, Greenpeace has claimed.

A report released today claims that numerous major global brands – including Tesco, Asda, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons – are selling products such pies, canned meats and ready meals, which have been made from Brazilian beef produced on illegally deforested land.

UK supermarkets and processors insist that their beef does not come from the Amazon, but Greenpeace claims its three-year investigation revealed satellite images and trade records which prove that Bertin, JBS or Marfrig – which supply 90% of the UK’s Brazilian beef imports – “knowingly buy significant volumes of cattle from farms engaged in recent and illegal deforestation”.

The report says beef and hides are shipped from slaughterhouses in the Amazon region to facilities in the south for further processing before export. “In effect, criminal or ‘dirty’ supplies of cattle are ‘laundered’ through the supply chain to an unwitting global market,” it says.

Greenpeace has called on UK companies to immediately stop purchasing from Brazilian suppliers who “refuse to commit to cleaning up their supply chains”.

Greenpeace forest campaigner Sarah Shoraka said: “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.

“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.”

In addition to laying blame on the global beef and leather export market, the report attacks the Brazilian government, revealing that it has offered billions of dollars in loans to support the expansion of the cattle industry, despite its massive environmental impact.

It points out that Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, has promised to cut deforestation by 72% by 2018, but has also pledged to double his country’s share of the global beef market by 2018 and has invested government money in companies such as Bertin, JBS and Marfrig.

Following the release of the report, Greenpeace has asked President Lula to introduce an immediate moratorium on further deforestation for cattle ranching, and to commit to zero deforestation in the Amazon by 2015.