Brazils biggest slaughterhouses are cleaning up their meat supply. Others must follow suit.

by Richard George

April 3, 2014

For over 50 years now, Mattel has been choosing Barbie’s career for her. She’s had a lot of different professions over the years but Mattel’s latest choice for Barbie: ‘Rainforest Destroyer,’ is arguably the most controversial career choice yet. It means a whole new look for this iconic doll and a lot of new accessories. If you’re a creative type, a budding designer, just enjoy dressing dolls - or know someone else who might fit the bill - join in the contest to design the Rainforest Destroyer look for Mattel’s most famous toy.

The deforestation drama between Ken and Barbie that has played out over the past two weeks hasn’t just meant a career change for Barbie. It’s meant a lot of public attention and scrutiny has been brought to the fact that Mattel are wrapping toys in cheap packaging that comes at the cost of Indonesian rainforests. And they aren’t alone.

Other toy companies have the same problem. Major companies like Hasbro, Disney and Lego also have deforestation in their supply chains. And the destruction of Indonesian rainforests for packaging and other paper products isn’t the only thing these toy companies have in common. Now that this problem has been brought to their attention, none of them have so far committed to fixing this problem once and for all. Fixing the problem means completely removing products from their supply chains that come from deforestation - and making sure it stays deforestation-free. That requires strong clear policy commitments, tough timelines and due diligence.  Only then can these companies ensure that they are helping to protect Indonesia’s rainforests. Mattel has so far only made vague statements about future plans, not confirmed that it is taking immediate action.  

We’ve already seen how strong your commitment is to the world’s rainforests and the amazing life that they support. Your actions and words have convinced companies like Nestlé to commit to removing deforestation from their products. Every day we see your comments and messages showing appreciation for our work to protect rainforests. Now we need Mattel, and the toy industry at large, to follow your lead and commit themselves to protecting rainforests too.

What are we asking toy companies to commit to?

•    Immediately suspend all purchases from Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) or any connected or subsidiary company
•    Maintain this suspension until APP implements commitments to stop deforestation for the production of its pulp and paper products.
•    Become a leader in the use of sustainable forest products through implementing progressive procurement policies that cover all pulp and paper products, including packaging

What can you do?

•    Send a message to Mattel
•    Share the video 'Barbie and Ken - the Break-Up!'
•    Follow the drama on Twitter and Facebook
•    Grab a 'Barbaric' pic for your profile
•    Join the contest to design a 'Forest Destroyer' look for Barbie (prize is Barbaric t-shirt!)

Yesterday the three largest slaughterhouses in Brazil JBS, Marfrig and Minerva published an update on their progress to ensure that the meat they produce isnt threatening the Amazon. It is another important milestone towards ending deforestation.

In October 2009, the three slaughterhouses made a public commitment that they would not buy from farms that were clearing the Amazon rainforest, using slave labor or that were established in Indigenous lands or conservation areas.

Crucially, the slaughterhouses agreed to put supply chain monitoring systems in place to ensure this agreement was followed, and to get someone independent to check that their systems were working.

You can see the slaughterhouses audit results on their websites:




Over the past year, we have worked with JBS, Marfrig and Minerva to agree common criteria to standardise these audits and make sure each company’s audits were comparable.

One key criterion was that the external auditors must have total access to companies purchase records so they could see which farms supplied them with cattle. Another was for us to agree with them an appropriate sample size for the auditors to examine.

Yesterday they published the results of these independent, external audits – an important step towards greater transparency and greater social control of meat production in Brazil.

According to the auditors, DNV and BDO, the three slaughterhouses have been effective in cutting off trade with farms that are putting the Amazon at risk. In over 99% of cases slaughterhouses were buying from farms that were no longer cutting down the Amazon.

The reason that the slaughterhouses’ internal control systems were so effective is that they have geo-references for most of the farms they bought from – allowing them to place them on a map and cross reference them against satellite images showing forest destruction.

All farmers are required by law to register with the Brazilian government’s rural properties database, SICAR. However, due to lax enforcement of this law by the Brazilian government, the slaughterhouses were forced to hire people to get their suppliers’ details.

Fixing this is critical. Once all the farms are registered, any company, large or small, will be able to understand its supply chains and make sure that it isn’t buying from farmers that are destroying the Amazon.That’s why it is so important for the federal government to make sure that farmers register.

The government also has to crack down on loopholes in SICAR’s implementation that let the biggest farms get away with forest destruction.

Under the new Forest Code, farmers must restore any forest cleared illegally after 2008, though farms in the Amazon that are smaller than 400 hectares are exempted from this. Some farmers are trying to register each part of their enormous farm separately, pretending that each of the pieces is a separate property.

By dividing themselves up into smaller units, the biggest farms think they can get away with forest destruction. This loophole must be closed immediately.

Yesterday’s announcement puts massive pressure on the rest of the industry. JBS, Marfrig and Minerva have taken responsibility for their supply chains. Now the other slaughterhouses, direct buyers and large supermarkets in Brazil must follow their lead.

These laggards have no excuse – and we will be watching closely to see how they respond.

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