The urgent need to break from herd mentality

29th May 20 by Daniel Jones

The Brazilian government is dismantling environmental regulations under the cover of the Covid19 crisis.

Last week Brazil’s environment minister Ricardo Salles suggested during a cabinet meeting that COVID-19 is a distraction during which the Brazilian government can “run the cattle herd” through the Amazon, “changing all the rules and simplifying standards.”

This unbelievably blatant statement confirms that the Bolsonaro’s government is dismantling environmental regulations and using the cover of a crisis that has already killed over 23,000 people in Brazil. These actions have the explicit support of a wide-range of trade bodies – many of whom signed onto a statement confirming their “total support” for the ministers approach and condemning the “bureaucratic agenda” that uses environmental causes as an excuse for the “ideological and unreasonable reversal of economic activity”. Today, two studies show that under Bolsonaro Amazonian deforestation has surged.

Organisations such as ABRA (the Brazilian Rendering Association) and ABRAFRIGO (Brazilian Refrigerators Association) both of which represent meat processors and slaughterhouses, signed onto the statement. Their members include well-known brands such as the dog food company, Pedigree – owned by Mars and lesser known controversial Brazilian meat giants such as BRF and Marfrig whose products you can find on shelves here in Tesco’s. As Brazilian NGO’s are pointing out – these companies are literally Ricardo Salle’s herd, ready to run faster and further through the Amazon.

In fact, an investigation by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Reporter Brazil uncovered British companies are purchasing thousands of tonnes of meat from companies like Marfig – strongly linked to Amazonian deforestation. Supermarkets are beginning to take notice, with major retailers such as Iceland, Tesco and Aldi signing onto a statement of concern. Though as Feedback has argued before, stern words of dismay do not equal meaningful action. Will they act now?

What is less clear is whether investors and banks are taking notice. Here in the UK high street banks such as HSBC and investment companies such as Standard Life Aberdeen, invest millions in Marfrig and companies like it. In our recent report we showed these companies are incompatible with a just and climate-safe food system and posed a simple question  – whose side are we on, Big Livestock’s or the Planet’s? Without divestment from the worst offenders, we know whose side Big Finance has picked. Are any brave enough to break from the herd mentality?

 

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