Brazilian meat giants linked to farmer charged with Amazon massacre


A new investigation by Repórter Brasil reveals links between JBS and Marfrig and a farmer accused of brutal 2017 killings

Large-scale cattle ranching in Brazil. Photo: Shutterstock

Repórter Brasil has revealed that farmer Valdelir João de Souza, a fugitive charged with nine murders during a brutal April 2017 massacre in the Amazon, has since indirectly supplied cattle to top Brazilian meatpackers JBS and Marfrig.

The Brazilian environmental news outlet found that throughout 2018 de Souza sold cattle to other farmers that went on to provide cattle to JBS, the world’s largest beef producer, and Marfrig, one of Brazil’s top three meat producers.

Despite being a fugitive, de Souza has allegedly continued to raise cattle in a farm illegally established in an area set aside by the government for agrarian reform.

According to documentation obtained by Repórter Brasil, on 9 May 2018 de Souza’s Três Lagoas farm sold 143 cattle to the Erança de Meu Pai farm, owned by Maurício Narde. Eleven minutes later, Narde sold 143 animals with the same age and sex characteristics to a JBS slaughterhouse.

According to the investigation, this case is an example of potential cattle laundering contaminating JBS’s supply chain.

The widespread practice of cattle laundering in Brazil makes it possible for farms with dirty environmental or human rights records to supply large slaughterhouses by first selling their animals to “clean” ranches, which then sell the cows to the meatpackers.

Mauro Armelin, director of Friends of the Earth in Brazil, told Repórter Brasil: “It makes no sense for an animal to stay 11 minutes at a farm before moving on to a slaughterhouse. This story has all the elements of a triangulation process for cattle laundering.”

Farms that sell cattle to other farms that then supply meatpackers are known as indirect suppliers and largely operate under the radar without much scrutiny. Slaughterhouses, including Marfrig, admit to not being able to monitor them.

In another example, on 25 June 2018, de Souza sold 153 heads of cattle to the Morro Alto farm, owned by José Carlos de Albuquerque. That year Albuquerque appeared on JBS’s list of suppliers and is known to have supplied a Marfrig slaughterhouse in the state of Rondônia.

Both JBS and Marfrig have adopted legal commitments with federal prosecutors, known as TAC Agreements, to monitor their supply chains and exclude farms guilty of illegal deforestation and other crimes from their supply chains.

De Souza’s Três Lagoas farm was deforested in 2015, which violates JBS commitments under the TAC Agreement not to purchase cattle from areas deforested after 2009.

In April 2018 Earthsight reported that Cedroarana, a timber company belonging to fugitive de Souza, had exported more than 300 tonnes of lumber to US firm Industrial Pine Products after the massacre took place.

The farmer who supplied 143 heads of cattle to JBS, Maurício Narde, worked for Cedroarana between 2007 and 2017.

JBS and Marfrig have denied any wrongdoing related to Reporter Brazil’s investigation and reiterated their commitments to environmental preservation and human rights in their supply chains.

Last year Earthsight exposed the commercial links between JBS and major UK supermarkets Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Morrisons and Asda, which continued to source corned beef from the Brazilian firm following a series of corruption scandals and deforestation cases linked to the meatpacking giant.

Earthsight research has also detailed how rations packs used by the British army had for years been stocked with JBS beef from Brazil.

This year JBS and other large meat firms have been under pressure to improve monitoring of their indirect suppliers to tackle illegal deforestation, land conflicts, human rights abuses, and land grabbing in their supply chains.

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