In 2020, thanks to two consecutive years of severe drought, some 30% of the Brazilian Pantanal – the world’s largest contiguous wetland – burned. In many cases ranchers are suspected of starting fires deliberately.
The world’s largest meat processor JBS and its leading competitors Marfrig and Minerva slaughtered cattle purchased from ranchers linked to the 2020 Pantanal fires, according to a new report published by Greenpeace International. The Brazilian meat giants in turn supply Pantanal beef to food giants like McDonald’s, Burger King, Nestlé, French groups Carrefour and Casino, and, reportedly, Walmart, as well as numerous other companies and retailers in markets across the world.
This investigation exposes continued failure by the meat processors to guarantee that cattle from rogue ranchers linked to environmental destruction or legal violations are excluded from supply. Such failures contribute to the industrial meat sector’s continued role as a leading global driver of land-use emissions, biodiversity loss and social injustice. Of particular concern is the potential for cattle linked to deliberate or illegal use of fire to find their way into the international market.
Given such structural failings, it is untenable for international consumer goods companies, supermarkets and fast food companies that claim to have zero deforestation policies to continue to trade with the meat processors named in this report. Further, if trade blocs such as the European Union and the United Kingdom are to end their consumption of products linked to environmental destruction then they must swiftly enact and enforce the necessary laws to ensure that products from these groups find no place in these markets.
The overproduction of meat and dairy is literally costing the earth. To halt and begin to reverse the current crisis, decisive action is needed from governments, finance and consumer companies to shift away from industrial meat and close markets to companies contributing to forest and ecosystem destruction. Without these vital steps our food system will continue to be a driving force of deforestation, climate change and future pandemic risk.