Meat production does not kill animals only. It kills forests (and the free animals who call them home) and poor people who get in the lawless way that ranchers operate in violent places like Brazil.
A new investigation by Repórter Brasil, as reported by the UK The Guardian, has found that the world’s biggest meat company, Brazilian JBS, and its competitor, Marfrig, are both linked to a brutal massacre that took place in the Amazon region.
The report, which can be read here (in Portuguese) puts further pressure on the two meat processors regarding their cattle supply chain transparency claims.
A brutal killing in the Amazon
The killing in question became known as the Colniza massacre. It took place on 19 April 2017, on a remote forest patch in the state of Mato Grosso, in the southern part of the Amazon.
Nine men who had been land-squatting in the area were murdered with signs of torture, stabbing and gunshots.
In May 2017, the owner of timber companies in the region, Valdelir João de Souza, was charged, along with other four men, with homicide and forming an illegal paramilitary group.
Valdelir had ordered the massacre but did not take part of it. He escaped to avoid jail and has been a fugitive since then.
In that part of the world, violence is the norm and business carried on as usual. On April 2018, two areas of land in Rondônia State further north were registered under his name covering a combined size of 2,500 acres in an area reserved for low-income agricultural workers.
And here comes the point where the meat companies get implicated. Repórter Brasil had access to government sanitary records that show that on 9 May 2018, 143 cattle were sold from those two farms to a farm owned by a man called Maurício Narde, who minutes later sold 143 animals of the same sex and age to a JBS meat-packer.
Other court documents reveal that Narde worked at a sawmill owned by Valdelir in the same region in Rondônia.
The Guardian says it contacted Narde, who still works there, but the business is no longer Valdelir’s. He didn’t want to answer their questions regarding the speed at which he sold the cattle.
The quick sale is suggestive of what is known ad “cattle laundering”, which means selling cattle with a bad environmental track to a “clean” farm in order to avoid monitoring systems. JBS, for example, does not monitor “indirect suppliers”.
A similar transaction took place on 25 June 2018. This time the recipient was Morro Alto farm, also in Rondônia, whose owner is called José Carlos de Albuquerque.
In the following months de Albuquerque sold dozens of head of cattle to JBS and Marfrig slaughterhouses. He denied having made the sales, despite records in the sanitary records.
Agreements with Greenpeace
Back in 2009, JBS and Marfrig had made separate agreements with Greenpeace and Brazilian prosecutors to not buy from farms linked to illegal deforestation.
The deal also included removing anyone involved in land grabbing and convicted in rural conflicts from supplier lists. A similar deal was sealed with federal prosecutors.
Unsurprisingly, considering the unlawfulness and violence that prevail in the region, Greenpeace had to quit the deal in 2017 when JBS was fined for buying cattle from farms in illegally-deforested areas in the Amazon state of Pará.
Authorities found that 19% of the cattle that JBS purchased in the state in 2016 had evidence of irregularities.
Yet, the company maintains it has an efficient and complex monitoring system, although it admits it cannot monitor indirect suppliers.
There is no sustainable meat
There is plenty of evidence that livestock is the main driver of deforestation, leaving a trail of destruction on the ground and affecting the climate globally.
Deals like those made by Greenpeace may have a feel-good aura about them, but they are bound to fail because of the very nature of the business.
The only way to save the Amazon now is to stop cattle-ranchers from criminally grabbing more land to convert it into pasture.
Customers should boycott any meat products from the Amazon and, even better, go vegan. The meat industry is killing the rainforest, aboriginal peoples and wreaking havoc with the climate. There is no time to wait.