Animal Aid

Meat - destroying the Amazon

Posted 22 June 2009

Following a recently published Greenpeace report, which details a three-year investigation into cattle farms that are destroying vast areas of the Amazon rainforest, Brazilian authorities are seeking compensation from Brazilian firms that supply Tesco, Asda and Marks & Spencer in the UK.

After the US, Britain is the second largest importer of processed Brazilian beef. Meat from the cattle is canned, packaged and processed into convenience foods. Hides become leather for shoes and trainers. Fat stripped from the carcasses is rendered and used to make toothpaste, face creams and soap. Gelatin squeezed from bones, intestines and ligaments thickens yoghurt and makes chewy sweets.

Cheap pasture from clearing and seeding rainforest is very attractive to farmers without easy access to the expensive agrichemicals and intensive land management techniques used in more developed countries. However, within a few years, the planted pasture becomes overrun with native grass and is unsuitable for cattle. Many farmers then take the cheap option and raze adjoining forest to start again, leaving swathes of unproductive deforested land in their wake. Since the 1970s, around a fifth of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed. And, according to Greenpeace, around 80 per cent of the area deforested in Brazil is now cattle pasture. Friends of the Earth estimates that cattle farming in Brazil has been responsible for 9bn-12bn tonnes of CO2 emissions in the past decade, almost equivalent to two years total output from the US. The cattle industry is the single biggest cause of deforestation in the world and is a disaster for the fight against climate change.

At this year's climate change negotiations in Copenhagen in December, these problems will be examined. But why wait for governments to act, when our actions, as consumers, have the greatest influence? Eating plant-based foods instead of those from animal sources can reduce the carbon impact of your diet by up to 60 per cent. With one simple step, you can protect the planet, help end animal suffering and boost your health. What other diet has such overwhelmingly positive benefits? Find out how simple it really is by ordering Animal Aid’s FREE Veggie or Vegan Guide, including recipes, shopping tips and nutritional information.

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