Brazilian slaughterhouses miss their first deadline under Zero Deforestation Agreement

by Mike Gaworecki

April 6, 2010

The first major deadline of the Zero Deforestation Agreement signed by JBS/Bertin, Marfrig and Minerva — Brazil’s largest slaughterhouses — has come and gone, and the companies all failed to meet their obligations under the agreement.

You might recall that we released the report “Slaughtering the Amazon,” last year to expose the links between cattle ranching in the Amazon region and deforestation. You might also remember that following the release of the report and the campaign we ran afterward, big supermarket chains such as Wal-Mart and Carrefour, as well as international shoe companies like Nike, Adidas, Clarks, Geox, and Timberland, made it clear to their suppliers — which of course are none other than Marfrig, Minerva, and JBS/Bertin (JBS and Bertin used to be separate, now they have merged) — that they would not purchase leather or meat from the Brazilian slaughterhouses unless the companies could prove they were not sourcing from newly deforested areas.

Greenpeace image: Amazon burns for cattle grazing land
Smoke from manmade forest fires deliberately set to clear land for cattle and farming rises above the Amazon. ©Greenpeace/Daniel Beltrá

All of which resulted in the Zero Deforestation Agreement signed on October 5, 2009. (You can read more about the "Slaughtering the Amazon" report release and campaign right here on the GPUSA blog.)

The major slaughterhouses of Brazil showed insufficient progress to comply with the first step in the Zero Deforestation Agreement, which required the registration and mapping of all ranches supplying Amazon cattle directly to the slaughterhouses (these ranches are known as the "fattening farms"). This is especially important because without knowing which ranch supplies which slaughterhouse, and exactly what the boundaries are of each ranch, there is no way to determine who is responsible for newly deforested Amazon and hence which cattle to keep out of the supply chain.

Despite missing their deadline, each of the companies did make significant progress, and reaffirmed their commitment to stopping deforestation of the Amazon by cattle ranchers. All three slaughterhouses have asked for an extension of three more months to finish the job.

While these companies were dragging their feet, some 94,888 acres (38,400 hectares) of the Amazon were deforested, according to Imazon, a Brazilian NGO that independently monitors Amazon deforestation.

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