An investigation from The Guardian newspaper and others revealed that more than 800m trees were cut down in the Amazon rainforest between 2017 and 2022 to feed the global demand for the flesh of Brazilian bulls. Despite pledging to do so, the cow meat industry in Brazil has failed to avoid farms linked to deforestation. The data suggest that 1.7m hectares of the Amazon were destroyed near meat plants exporting beef around the world.

The investigation, undertaken by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), the Guardian, Repórter Brazil and Forbidden Stories, linked the deforestation to cattle farming near meat plants owned by Brazil’s big three cow meat exporters: JBS, Marfrig and Minerva.

Cattle ranching involves multiple movements of animals between farms, making it hard to trace their origin, effectively allowing “cattle laundering”, where cows from farms with illegal deforestation are sent to “clean” farms before slaughter. Nestlé and the German meat company Tönnies, which had supplied Lidl and Aldi, were among those to have allegedly bought meat from the plants featured in the study.

The destruction of the Amazon has planetary implications for the climate crisis, as the rainforest is the most vital carbon sink on the planet. Between 2019 and 2022, deforestation across Brazil soared under the then-president Jair Bolsonaro, with cattle ranching being the number one cause. The new president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has promised to reverse that policy.

Some of the meat exported from Brazil to the EU could be in breach of the new laws designed to combat deforestation in supply chains, which were adopted in April 2023. Under such regulations, products brought into the EU cannot be linked to any deforestation that happened after December 2020.

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.