Maxine Fay Miller
03 Jun 2009
Supermarkets such as Marks and Spencer, Sainsburys, Tesco, Asda and Morrisons are buying and using beef from cattle produced on farms from cleared rainforests, to make a variety of foods including pies, canned meat and ready meals. Britain is the second largest importer of processed Brazilian beef after the US, importing 50,000 tonnes last year alone.
Leather goods such as shoes, trainers and bags are also being derived from cattle reared in cleared Brazilian rainforests and sold in high street shops. Greenpeace names Nike, Adidas, Timberland and Clarks Shoes among companies it says use leather linked to Amazon destruction.
Other parts of the cattle remains are also used for example, fat stripped from the carcasses is used to make toothpaste, face creams and soap and gelatin squeezed from bones is used to thicken yoghurt.
Tropical rainforests such as the Brazilian rainforest are the most bio-diverse ecosystems on Earth. Their rich biodiversity is achieved by providing a habitat to countless animals and plants which are unique and unseen anywhere else on Earth such as powerful Jaguars, giant otters and capybara as well as thousands of bird and insects species. Over half the world’s land species live in tropical rainforests. Many of our daily products and health giving medicines are derived from rainforests such as rubber for vehicle tyres, anti-cancer and anti-malarial medication and even the humble chicken which was bred from a rainforest fowl. Rainforest products can be harvested sustainably to enable the conservation of the rainforests, its people and wildlife.
As well as providing a global preserve for wildlife tropical rainforests are crucial to the weather systems, rainfall patterns and provide an enormous sink for carbon dioxide. Rainforest destruction is speeding up Climate Change and is estimated to produce 17% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions – more than the entire global transport system.
Cheap pasture from clearing and seeding rainforest is very attractive to Brazilian farmers and within a few years, the planted pasture becomes overrun with native grass, unsuitable for cattle. Many farmers then knock down adjoining forest to start again, leaving swaths of unproductive deforested land in their wake which turns into barren dust bowls devoid of life. Ultimately the rainforests that have established over millions of years are destroyed forever.
The Greenpeace report used government records, company documents and trade data from Brazil, China, Europe, Vietnam and the USA, to discover the global movement of meat, leather and cosmetics ingredients made from Brazilian cattle. Campaigners used satellite images, surveillance flights and undercover visits to assess deforestation on dozens of ranches across the Amazon.
As a result of this investigation Greenpeace wants companies to refuse to buy products sourced from unscrupulous suppliers on farms that have carried out illegal deforestation. Consumers can play a positive role too by pressurising supermarkets and high-street brands identified in the report to clean-up their supply chains.
According to Sarah Shoraka, Greenpeace forests campaigner "The cattle industry is the single biggest cause of deforestation in the world.” Big ranches account for 80% of all deforestation in the region and the number of cattle in the Amazon has grown from 21 million in 1995 to 56 million in 2006.
Three Brazilian companies, Bertin, JBS and Marfrig operate slaughterhouses and together control a third of Brazilian beef exports. Greenpeace says satellite images and trade records show that all three companies – part-owned by the Brazilian government – source cattle from farms that have carried out illegal deforestation in the Amazon and ship meat, hides and other products to an export facilities near Sao Paolo some 3000 miles away where it is processed and shipped all over the world.
The report says: "While the blue chip companies behind reputable global brands appear to believe that Amazon sources are excluded from their products, Greenpeace investigations expose for the first time how their blind consumption of raw materials fuels deforestation and climate change."
Some 3000 participants from around the world gather in Bonn today for UN Climate Change talks to develop a new treaty to prevent Climate Change. This is expected to include urgent efforts to protect rainforests. Furthermore, it is predicted that developed countries will have to reduce carbon emissions by 75 to 95% of 1990 levels by 2050.