EU governments must change course to protect indigenous peoples under planned due diligence directive


  • The EU Deforestation-Free Products Regulation (EUDR), which came into force in June 2023, missed the opportunity to sufficiently protect indigenous peoples rights. The upcoming corporate sustainability due diligence directive (CSDDD) is now at risk of following the same path. 
  • The final text of the CSDDD is currently being negotiated, and some Member States – including Germany, France, Finland, and Sweden – are actively seeking to weaken protections for indigenous peoples.
  • It is essential that these Member States change course and ensure that crucial indigenous rights protections, such as specific rights to self-determination, land rights, the right to free, prior and informed consent, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and the ILO Convention No. 169, are included in the final directive. 
  • Last year, an investigation by Earthsight and De Olho nos Ruralistas, There Will Be Blood, exposed the links between pet food sold by some of Europe’s largest retailers and egregious indigenous rights violations in Brazil. 
  • Earthsight can now reveal that trade links between the Brazilian companies and Europe remain, highlighting the need for strong indigenous rights protections in the CSDDD. 

Guarani Kaiowá indigenous group members in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul display a photo of Marcos Veron, a community leader murdered after attempts to reclaim their ancestral territory from predatory agribusiness © Romerito Pontes / flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The struggle for Takuara

Brasília do Sul, a 9,700-hectare soy farm in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, sits on Takuara, the ancestral land of the Guarani Kaiowá who were violently and illegally evicted decades ago. The community’s land rights have been brutally suppressed in recent years. Marcos Veron, a prominent Kaiowá leader, was beaten to death by Brasília do Sul employees and hired gunmen during an attack in 2003 shortly after leading his people back to Takuara. No-one has ever been convicted of his murder. In the meantime, aggressive use of the courts by the farm’s owners – who have deforested the land almost completely – and inaction by the state have hindered the rightful restitution of Takuara to the Kaiowá, despite the federal government having for years officially recognised it as indigenous land. 

What There Will Be Blood revealed:

Expand for further details on the report

There Will Be Blood revealed that Brasília do Sul, a 9,700-ha soy farm located in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, sits on Takuara, the ancestral land of the Guarani Kaiowá, who were violently evicted from the land decades ago to make way for agribusiness expansion. The farm’s owners are the wealthy and politically influential Jacintho family, whose members have falsely asserted that Takuara has never had an indigenous presence, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary (including evidence corroborated by the Brazilian government itself).

While the Brazilian government has for years recognised the legitimacy of indigenous claims over Takuara, it has failed to return it to the Kaiowá as mandated by the country’s Constitution. The judicial system, including the Supreme Court, has on several occasions blocked or delayed action in favour of the indigenous community, which campaigners claim violates Constitutional provisions on indigenous rights.

In the meantime, the Guarani Kaiowá have endured a decades’ long campaign of violent suppression of their rights. Following an attempt to reoccupy their traditional lands in January 2003, one of the community’s leaders, Marcos Veron, was brutally murdered during an early morning attack against the Kaiowá perpetrated by Brasília do Sul’s employees and gunmen hired by Jacintho Honório da Silva Filho.

Da Silva Filho – who has a special place in Brazil’s agribusiness history for his role in helping revolutionise its cattle sector – bought Brasília do Sul in the 1960s and cleared almost all its native forests for pasture, later transforming it into a soy farm. He stood accused as the mastermind behind Veron’s murder and the attack against the Guarani Kaiowá, as well as witness tampering. He was never convicted. Prosecutors and experts consulted by Earthsight referred to the case as a clear example of impunity of a powerful businessman. Da Silva Filho died in 2019 aged 102.

Today the Guarani Kaiowá of Takuara continue to suffer the consequences of lack of access to their ancestral lands, being confined to a small piece of land in its periphery in precarious conditions and unable to live according to their customs and traditions.

The European pet food market

The report uncovered the supply chain links between Brasília do Sul’s soy, a large chicken exporter in Brazil, and pet food sold by Germany’s largest supermarkets, including Lidl, dm-drogerie markt, Edeka, and Rewe Markt, as well as by several retailers in Europe, including Fressnapf.

Our team found that Brasília do Sul's soy is purchased by Lar Cooperativa Agroindustrial (Lar), Brazil's fourth largest chicken slaughtering company. Lar processes soy into animal feed, which is then used by its members for chicken production.

Between 2017 and 2022 Lar exported nearly 120,000 tonnes of frozen and marinated chicken products to the EU, with exports in 2022 almost three times as high as those in 2017. Lar's main markets in the EU are Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. 

The German company Paulsen Food GmbH, which was bought by Thai food giant Charoen Pokphand Foods (CPF) in 2017, was shown to be a major customer of Lar. In the 2017-2022 period, Paulsen Food imported over 20,000 tonnes of chicken products for the manufacture of pet food from Lar, being the latter's only major buyer for this type of product in the EU. 

German pet food manufacturers Saturn Petcare and Animonda Petcare purchase chicken products from Paulsen Food, as There Will Be Blood uncovered. 

The report also revealed that Saturn Petcare sells pet food to some of the largest retailers in Germany, including Lidl, dm-drogerie markt, Edeka, Netto Marken-Discount, Rewe Markt, and Rossmann. These retailers sell Saturn Petcare products under their own brand names (see table below). Animonda, on the other hand, supplies its own pet food brand to several retailers in Europe, including Fressnapf and online retailers Zooplus, Vetsend and Medpets.

Whether German cat and dog owners purchase their pet food in drug stores, discount chains, other supermarkets, online, or even at specialised shops, they are exposed to the risk of unwittingly contributing to the brutal and illegal oppression of the Guarani Kaiowá.

The European companies named here denied any wrongdoing and affirmed their commitment to upholding human rights in their supply chains.

However, through our correspondence with them, it became clear that their ‘due diligence’ checks were wholly unsatisfactory. Their responses indicate they had not been aware of Brasília do Sul’s links to Lar before this was brought to their attention by Earthsight. They also seemed to rely solely on assurances from their suppliers rather than conducting their own traceability assessments. Crucially, none could convincingly explain how or if they are able to stop chicken products linked to indigenous rights violations from entering their supply chains.

You can read the companies responses to There Will Be Blood here. Paulsen Food did not respond to our request for comment at the time. 

Despite the revelations made in There Will Be Blood in May 2022, European companies continue to import chicken from Lar, exposing European customers to an ongoing risk. Between July 2022 and June 2023, Lar exported over 28,000 tonnes of chicken products to the EU. More than 5,500 tonnes of these were frozen chicken exported to German and the Netherlands for the manufacture of pet food. Lar's main markets in the EU are Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. 

Indigenous Peoples left behind by EU Deforestation Regulation

New EU corporate sustainability legislations aimed at minimising the negative impact of business activity and EU consumption on the environment and human rights globally were a beacon of hope for the Guarani Kaiowá and others. However, the EUDR, which came into force in June 2023, was a major disappointment for indigenous peoples. The upcoming CSDDD is now at risk of following the same path. 

The EUDR requires companies to exercise due diligence to ensure that certain commodities, such as soy, beef, and wood, are not linked to deforestation or forest degradation. It also requires that the laws of the country of production are not violated. Initially, the European Parliament had sought to require companies to respect the internationally recognised rights of indigenous peoples, including customary tenure rights and the right to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC).

However, the final text only requires companies to respect those human rights that are protected under national law of the country of production. At the time, the Commission argued that the EUDR did not have to include international human rights protections for indigenous peoples because they would instead be sufficiently covered by the CSDDD. 

While certain producer countries, including Brazil, do have national laws protecting the rights and land of indigenous peoples, others do not. Indigenous peoples will therefore not be equally protected by the EUDR. Even where such national laws exist, cases like that of the Guarani Kaiowá show that they are not always implemented or enforced. Courts may interpret them unfavourably to indigenous peoples, and corruption may obstruct the course of justice. It is not yet clear how EUDR enforcement authorities will deal with such circumstances. 

The inclusion of poultry products in the EUDR, which had been part of the Parliament’s position, also did not make it into the final text of the regulation. This means that neither Paulsen Food nor the big retailers, such as Lidl or Rewe, will be required to exercise due diligence under the EUDR when placing chicken products from Lar on the EU market.

Strong indigenous rights protections needed in CSDDD

The Guarani Kaiowá’s hope now rests with the CSDDD, which is currently in its final stages of negotiations between the European Parliament, the Council, and the European Commission. The planned directive aims to promote sustainable and responsible corporate behaviour by requiring companies to exercise due diligence and prevent, mitigate, minimise or bring to an end adverse human rights and environmental impacts throughout their supply chains.

As such, it has the potential to have a real positive impact for indigenous peoples, including the Guarani Kaiowá. 

The Commission’s proposed text for the CSDDD, published in February 2022, was an initial step in the right direction, as it included the UNDRIP in its annex. The Commission also specified in the annex that companies ought to consider violations of a peoples’ right to dispose of a land's natural resources and to not be deprived of their means of subsistence (Article 1(2) of the of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). However, the proposal was criticised for being insufficiently rigorous on indigenous rights.  

On 1 June 2023, the European Parliament voted to strengthen the proposed text by adding the specific rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination and their right to FPIC, as well as the International Labour Organisation’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples’ Convention 1989 (No. 169) to the Annex of the CSDDD. The Parliament also added an explicit requirement for companies to carry out meaningful engagement, for example in the form of consultations, with affected stakeholders, including indigenous peoples. 

However, before the CSDDD can become law, it needs to be agreed on by the European Parliament and the Council, the latter of which consists of EU Member State governments. And while the Parliament voted to strengthen the directive for indigenous peoples, the Council’s negotiating position does the opposite. The Council proposes dropping the UNDRIP, as well as a people’s right to dispose of a land's natural resources and to not be deprived of their means of subsistence. 

It is reported that the German government has pushed to remove these protections form the CSDDD. This is especially shocking considering the number of large German companies whose pet food supply chains are tainted by indigenous rights abuses, as revealed in There Will Be Blood. It is rumoured that France, Sweden and Finland were also obstructing inclusion of these rights.  

In addition, cases such as that of the Guarani Kaiowá demonstrate that it is essential the directive includes clear language requiring companies to carry out due diligence for their entire upstream value chain if the directive is to achieve its desired impact. In the case at hand, this would include due diligence reaching back to the farm where the soy for the chicken feed is grown. This is at least four tiers removed from the German retailers. 

While the Commission’s proposed text for the CSDDD fell short of ensuring that indirect business relationships are covered, the Council and European Parliament agree that all tiers of a company’s upstream supply chain should be subject to due diligence obligations. It is essential that this position is maintained during the final negotiations.

Only companies of a certain size and annual turnover will need to comply with the CSDDD. Earthsight’s analysis indicates that all of the German retailers named in There Will Be Blood would have to comply with the directive.  

The Council must change course

The case of the Guarani Kaiowá demonstrates that it is crucial Germany, France, Sweden and Finland change course. European cat and dog owners should be able to feed their pets without having to worry that they are unwittingly contributing to the oppression of an indigenous community abroad. 

The former German coalition government, consisting of the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party, let indigenous peoples down when they passed their national supply chain law, the Lieferkettensorgfaltspflichtengesetz. The law has been described as “toothless” and “just a start” by Earthsight and others, and does not ask companies to take into account the ILO Convention 169 or UNDRIP when carrying out due diligence. The current coalition government in Germany, consisting of the Social Democrats, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats, now has the opportunity to correct this wrong. But they must stop putting business over people and the planet. 

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