Importance of Natural Resources

See How Beef Is Destroying The Amazon

Deforestation has skyrocketed in the Amazon and the main culprit is right behind me. I’m going deep into the heart of beef production in Brazil’s Amazon, to witness an industry that accounts for more than 60% of deforestation here. Everything I’ve seen over the past day has completely shifted for me how I’m going to interact with the food I eat. And I think everybody needs to have that experience. I’m starting my journey in Santarém, a city in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon. I’m visiting a slaughterhouse which is the last step of a process that’s helping destroy one of our Earth’s most important resources Brazil is a world’s largest exporter of beef and 40 percent of the country’s 200 million cattle are raised in the Amazon region This is the final and perhaps most crucial step before worldwide distribution, it’s the slaughterhouse hence the safety clothes. The general manager showed me every step of the slaughter process, from the kill to packaging the cuts of meat. The US imports more than 250 million dollars worth of Brazilian beef annually. That pales in comparison to Brazil’s exports to both Hong Kong and China, its biggest customers, followed by Egypt, Chile and Iran. God, it’s cold in here. Two-thirds of agricultural land on earth is occupied by cattle sheep and goats the red meat industry contributes about half of agriculture’s total greenhouse gas emissions. So, what does the slaughterhouse owner think about climate change? You know the animals themselves contribute large amounts of methane. The production itself releases a lot of carbon and every time a tree is cut down the carbon that is sacrificed and released into the atmosphere is driving our global temperatures to vary scary new heights. So, I’m really surprised that you think that your industry is not contributing. Before the cattle are sent for slaughter. They’re fattened up on feedlots in Brazil’s Amazon, on land that’s been deforested. You know, we’ve been on the road for about ten hours now and we’re just about to pull up to one of the largest feedlots in the country. Cows and bulls are fed a mixture of corn and soy meal to fatten them up, which contributes to deforestation. Soy is one of the main crops grown on deforested land and Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, only wants to expand the agricultural industry here. Ananias is a cowboy who wrangles the animals on the feedlot. So, can you explain to me a little bit of how things run here? It’s huge feedlot. How do you organize yourselves? Unemployment remains high in Brazil. Even after a crippling recession ended in 2017, Bolsonaro’s support of the beef industry comes as a relief for people like Ananias. This is the latest batch of arrivals. Apparently these animals are coming from about eight hours away. The cattle arrived weighing around 750 pounds and leave for the slaughterhouse at nearly 1,300 pounds. These animals are all ready to be branded Cattle are a big part of the money behind the powerful agriculture lobby that helped elect Bolsonaro. This feedlot in particular supplies cattle to a number of major companies in Brazil. One of them is the world’s largest meatpacking company, JBS which supplies beef to Walmart and Costco That’s how American consumers unwittingly contribute to deforestation. The US does not require producers to state where meat comes from. What are the measures that the major feedlot is like this one take to make sure that the animals are not coming from deforested land? Is deforestation and climate change a key point of interest for the cattle industry here in brazil? Nadir’s right. If ranchers made better use of the land they had, you wouldn’t need to cut down more forests. But the opposite has been true this summer, as illegal loggers and ranchers have been clearing land, they’ve set thousands of fires, a fact which Bolsonaro famously denied. Bolsonaro has since declared a 60-day ban on the fires and sent troops to crack down on deforestation by farmers and loggers. And yet he wants to continue ramping up beef production in the Amazon. It’s hard to imagine that all this used to be rainforest. And now for a long time it’s been ranch and farmland. You know, if Brazil keeps producing beef at the rate that it is, this whole landscape is gonna get swallowed up by this. The Amazon is the largest rainforest on the planet Continued deforestation would compound the problems of climate change by releasing massive amounts of stored carbon The last stop on my journey was in fact a ranch on land cut right out of the rainforest We’ve just rolled up to this cattle ranch, which has set up shop. There’s a cowboy coming down on a horse. You see him? He’s gonna come through that forest patch. Ranches here are often set up in national parks or indigenous reserves on land that’s been illegally deforested. Yeah, he’s coming. Just wait. He’ll come out of that tree cover. This one it’s on land that the Munduruku tribe claims as part of its territory. All this has been cleared, turned into a cattle ranch It’s actually a pretty friendly family who’s running the operation, they’ve invited us in. Have you had to register this land or or get some sort of paperwork to show that what you’re doing is completely legal? Do you feel that indigenous people Brazil’s Amazon is still very much the Wild West. Ranches operate illegally and the government looks the other way. And industries like ranching and mining represent the entire economy here. Bolsonaro has slowed the pace of enforcement against illegal logging and even fired the head of the agency tracking deforestation. Meanwhile deforestation under Bolsonaro increased 93 percent in the first nine months of 2019. We got something. I think when they heard us pull up, they ran because I thought we were the police, but now that they realize we’re with the local, they’re starting up again. Four men here working. They’ve just taken a huge tree down and they’re cutting it up into bits. The loggers told me they were clearing land for pasture and cutting logs to build a church and that after removing the brush they would burn the leftover wood. I left the Amazon with an understanding of how lawless parts of the beef industry are, and how much the country continues to depend on it. For now, it appears it’s largely up to us to consider how much beef we consume and to reconcile what it cost the planet to produce it. Hey guys, it’s Gelareh. Thank you so much for watching the debut episode of Goodbye Earth, our new environmental show, in the next episode I go deeper into the Amazon and embed with an indigenous tribe who are defending their land from illegal activity. 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