Western beef & leather demand leading to intensified deforestation in the Amazon: http://bit.ly/3PtVi
The big issue which is dominating the leather discussion of the moment is the recent report by Greenpeace on ranching in the Amazon. See (http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/slaughtering-the-amazon)
Its arrival was accompanied by a good PR promotion which included very good articles in the Financial Times and the Guardian and enormous email campaign to companies throughout the world. The Greenpeace web site says as I write this:
“The story also got huge coverage in Brazil. The issue has shot to prominence in the country, and on the day our report was released a Brazilian federal prosecutor filed a billion dollar lawsuit against the cattle ranching industry! He wrote to major slaughterhouse companies including Bertin, as well as 69 companies purchasing cattle products implicated in deforestation including Carrefour and Wal-Mart, threatening them with fines if they do not stop buying from farms acting illegally.
Outside of Brazil, we have generated a buzz in the shoe sector – a major purchaser of Amazon leather. A Greenpeace protest outside shoe company Geox’s headquarters in Milan has kept the pressure on, and we are seeking meetings with all the shoe companies that are named in the report.”
I have mixed views on this as I have been writing about the shortage of land for breeding cattle for some years highlighting peer reviewed papers on the Amazon such Caviglia-Harris (2005) and Chinese Xinhua News Agency reports on Chinese moves to keep land available for human food crops. These were mostly received in silence, but a few people argued that this was just the old argument of the 1970s and 80s that we would run out of raw material for leather. They did not take the bigger point that we are now short of land and water on the planet and the leather industry has to consider its environmental responsibilities seriously. Now they do.
Reuters report said: The report presented satellite analysis it said showed that meat exported by Brazil’s big meatpackers to make everything from Italian shoes and U.S. dog chews to U.K. ready-to-eat meals often comes from ranches with recent illegal deforestation.
The major meatpackers, such as JBS, Marfrig and Bertin, ship the beef or hides thousands of miles south for further processing before export, it said.
“In effect, criminal or “dirty” supplies of cattle are laundered through the supply chain to an unwitting global market,” it said. “Expansion by these groups is effectively a ‘joint venture’ with the Brazilian government.”
The report also identified a string of major companies including Adidas, Nike, BMW, Honda, Gucci, Tesco and Wal-Mart that it said used “Amazon-contaminated” supplies.
It said companies often are unaware of the Amazon link because they buy “blindly” from Brazil and they cannot see the connections back to the rain forest, but it insisted they are real. “Everything is connected to the Amazon,” said Greenpeace campaigner Andre Muggiati.”
From where I sit I have to say the complaints are true and that the leather industry does have to move to clean up its act. It is just a shame that the industry has spent so many decades establishing a low profile culture and claiming that its sole role in life is managing a bi-product. Had this not been so the industry would have been better prepared when things like this happened, would have the lines of communications in place to answer back with properly researched material, and more than likely would have done something well in advance to stop the industry being involved in such errors.
Back in 2007 I remember being told that my comments on the Amazon were too hysterical and not of true value to the industry. I know a few companies who should have taken my comments seriously.
And note that the title of this piece is a Tweet posted on Twitter by a writer with a Ph.D. in environmenttal engineering – now science/environmental/political writer from the USA called Sarah Emily Labance. News gets around quickly.