In June, journalists and media outlets published the results of a collaborative investigation into the alleged large-scale deforestation of the Amazon as a result of cattle farming. The investigation identified 17,000 km2 of the Amazon allegedly destroyed near meat plants exporting beef around the world.
About the investigation
- On 2 June, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the Guardian, Repórter Brasil (funded by the Laudes Foundation) and Forbidden Stories, published an investigation into the purported large-scale deforestation of the Amazon due to cattle ranching. The investigation was conducted with AidEnvironment, a Dutch environmental consultancy.
- The investigation focused on meat plants owned by Brazil’s biggest beef exporters – JBS, Marfrig and Minerva. It alleges that
- 17,000 km2 of the Amazon – equivalent to over 800 million trees – was destroyed near meat plants exporting beef worldwide
- Thirteen JBS-owned meat plants, six Marfig-owned meat plants and three Minerva-owned meat plants are purportedly linked to ranches where there had been forest clearance, felling or burning.
- Beef linked to deforestation was sold to the EU, UK and China, allegedly ending up in the supply chains of large EU-based brands through intermediary suppliers.
- Investigators also found evidence of “cattle laundering”, where animals from a “dirty” farm are transported to a “clean” farm before slaughter to obscure their links to deforestation.
- The researchers used satellite imagery, livestock movement records and other data to calculate forest loss between 2017 and 2022 on ranches near more than 20 slaughterhouses owned by the three companies in question.
- Links to deforestation pose not only reputational but also legal and business risks. The EU Regulation on Deforestation-Free Products will enter into force for companies in 2025. The EU Regulation prohibits products from being placed on the EU market or exported from the EU unless they are deforestation-free and covered by a due diligence statement. The Regulation targets cattle, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, soya, wood and rubber, and products that contain, have been fed with or have been made using these commodities, such as charcoal, paper products, leather, chocolate, furniture and palm oil derivatives.
- Deforestation linked to supply chains is under intense scrutiny from both investors and NGOs and companies can expect this scrutiny to increase under the EU Regulation on Deforestation-Free Products. NGOs are using a range of technology solutions and satellite imagery, supply chain analysis and field research to map linkages to supply chains.
- The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Guardian regularly publish stories on deforestation in the Amazon, but this is a larger-scale and higher profile investigation than we have seen before. We can expect NGOs to dial up their efforts in anticipation of the EU Regulation on Deforestation-Free Products.