More than 10,000 hectares of forest have been cleared in the states of Pará and Mato Grosso in northern Brazil due to illegal cattle ranching.
The deforestation was identified in an analysis by Instituto Socioambiental (ISA), a Brazilian conservation NGO that has been tracking deforestation in the Xingu river basin.
The illegal ranching is also encroaching on indigenous reserves, according to ISA. The Cachoeira Seca do Iriri, an indigenous reservation and the ancestral land of the Arara people, has lost 1,096 ha of forest since January, mostly due to the extension of existing pasture.
Similarly, the Triunfo do Xingu Environmental Protected Area (APA) lost 1,911 ha of forest in July alone, taking total deforestation within the area this year to 15,134 ha. Juan Doblas of ISA said the deforestation demonstrated “the power and capability of the agribusiness sector within the APA”.
The expansion of illegal pastures in the area is taking place despite the commitment made in 2009 by slaughterhouses and meat processors in Pará and other Brazilian states – known as TAC da carne – to avoid sourcing cattle from illegally deforested areas.
The agreement is failing in its aim to halt illegal deforestation connected to cattle ranching in the Amazon. According to data released last March by the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office (MPF), in 2016, 17 slaughterhouses in Pará sourced at least 117,000 head of cattle from farms implicated in illegal deforestation. JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, was the company with the worst record, responsible for the purchase of over 85,000 head of cattle from farms implicated in illegal deforestation.
Despite these findings, the MPF has decided not to sanction any company on the basis there was no “bad faith” on the part of the slaughterhouses involved. The MPF also concluded that no more than 30 percent of the cattle purchased by these slaughterhouses came from farms presenting irregularities, a result the organ deemed “satisfactory”.
Back in the Xingu river basin, conservationists say that ranches and slaughterhouses found guilty of fuelling illegal deforestation in the area must be embargoed and fined by the authorities if the agreement is to have any chance of surviving.