Greenpeace!16 November 2009
I am not a tree hugger and I have not one single good word for PETA, therefore I suppose that the title of this Limeblast ‘Greenpeace’ surprises you. I read in this magazine (July page 6) and a daily newspaper about this report that Greenpeace have published about the Amazon and its relation with the meat and leather industry in Brazil. You can find this article on the web at http://www.greenpeace. org/international/press/reports/slaughtering- the-amazon and it presents very interesting reading about matters that we have little or no knowledge about. Reading the Greenpeace article, of which you find bits and pieces woven into my text, I believe that any code of conduct should include also the refusal to buy hides and skins from those companies that profit from the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
Greenpeace conducted a three-year long investigation and concluded that the cattle sector in the Brazilian Amazon is the largest driver of deforestation in the world in order to create grazing ground for cattle, because Brazilian cattle mainly feed on grass. The driving factor behind the will to increase grazing land is the ever increasing demand for meat in the world. With income generally on the rise, the demand for beef also increases. Brazil is by and large the biggest producer and exporter of beef. Brazil features a livestock of 223,805,000 bovine animals with an estimated take-off rate of 37.6 million head, making it the biggest producer of hides worldwide. Brazil supplies more or less one third of the total beef production in the world! Ten years from now, Brazil will double that.
The leather trade can obviously do very little about this deforestation because we buy the hides, the by-product, from the meat industry and not from the cattle farmers. Greenpeace disagrees and erroneously labels hides as a co-product of the meat industry and not a by-product. That is a statement of convenience and not a statement of fact! I suggest someone tries to raise animals without a hide. The leather industry takes a big burden off the backs of the meat industry by processing the hides and skins and stops them from putrefying. Leather is in no way profiting from the destruction of the rainforest!
Greenpeace mentions three big cattle and meat producers in Brazil: Bertin, JBS and Marfrig. I looked them up and these are multinational heavyweights in the meat industry. JBS slaughters some 22,600 head per day! On their websites, Marfrig and JBS make no mention of any social or environmental policy at the time of writing this Limeblast. JBS states that their values are Planning, Determination, Discipline, Availability, Sincerity, Simplicity. The words environment and social responsibility are missing. The Bertin Group, instead, have published a press statement on their website that says that the company complies with the Action Plan for Amazon Deforestation Prevention and Control (PPCDAM), respects Decree Law no. 6.514 – which prohibits purchase, mediation, transport or commercialisation of a product or sub-product of animal or vegetable origin, produced in embargoed areas, takes part in the National Pact for Eradication of Slave Labour and uses information disclosed by agencies like the INCRA (National Institute of Colonisation and Agrarian Reform) to certify that the producer is not using land taken over illegally.
Greenpeace disagrees and states that
limiting its criteria to farms that have been convicted is not good enough. In the case of deforestation violations, the average processing time of a fine at IBAMA (the Brazilian environment agency) is 7 years. This makes Bertin’s criteria ineffective. Furthermore the Greenpeace investigation found farms that deforested in 2008 and currently continue to deforest, and nevertheless frequently transport shipments of animals to Bertin’s slaughterhouses. Greenpeace says they have identified tens of farms that have fines for illegal deforestation and are regular suppliers to Bertin. They may not have been convicted yet but these farms still do not comply with the law. In relation to the purchase of animals from areas under embargo, the Federal Prosecution Office is suing Bertin for their continued purchases from embargoed areas in the Amazon state of Para, precisely violating the Decree 6.514 that they affirm they fulfill. Farms that have been in a scenario of violence against landless people are regular suppliers of Bertin. In the case of slave labour, there is a case of a supplier of Bertin’s that was named in the ‘slave labour dirty list’ in 2008, but the workers were freed in 2007.
Greenpeace points out that Brazilian leather is supplied to blue chip companies like sportswear, car and upholstery manufacturers, the US military, etc. etc. We talk therefore a huge value chain which is worth tens of billions of dollars, employing directly or indirectly a couple of million people, all over the world. These companies have a code of conduct and they may want to look into this matter and cleanse their supply line.
It is obvious that Greenpeace is right, and that the Amazon rainforest MUST be conserved and that deforestation MUST be halted. The trick is to develop a way of achieving this without killing industries that employ thousands. There is an international fund for the conservation of the Amazon rainforest which hopes to collect $21 billion by 2021, of which up to May 2009 only $110 million had been committed, mainly by Norway and Germany.
Pressuring manufacturers of leather products that use Brazilian leather through calls for a boycott of their goods by the
general public makes no sense, because the public’s memory is very short. Therefore, a totally different action plan would be necessary in which good sense, overall social responsibility and collaboration must be the main factors.
We need alternatives for those stake holders who believe that the destruction of the rain forest is the only possible solution to their need for more grazing land for their cattle. Greenpeace say that they have an alternative proposal for a fund for ‘Forests for Climate’ which would provide the funds needed in order to protect tropical forests http://www.greenpeace.org/international/ campaigns/climate-change/forests_for_
climate and http://www.greenpeace.org/ international/press/reports/forests_for_
climate_factsheet. This proposal is said not to be at the expense of sustainable development but would work with local communities to effectively preserve forests and forest resources for everyone’s benefit.
Let’s however not forget that ‘green’ implies also big money, jobs, consultancies etc. Many scientific studies predict global warming at a pace that, by the end of this century, Europe would become an
extension of the Sahara desert in some places and be inundated by the rising oceans in others. I am not saying we should pollute, on the contrary! We must avoid pollution, not repair. We must maintain nature, not destroy it! But we must remain also with our feet on the ground. Many of the alarmist prognoses serve secondary agendas. Nature is patient. It moves in its own ways and over a period of time it balances itself. Hot periods are followed by cold periods. High tide by low tide.
The Greenpeace report has produced some very important developments in a very short time, including the World Bank pulling out of a US$90 million loan to Bertin, and Marfrig having announced a moratorium on deforestation for cattle with immediate effect.
Now let us look at the highlights of my direct correspondence with Greenpeace: