Environmental Damages in the Amazon
JACI-PARANA, Brazil — Meat processing giant JBS SA and three other slaughterhouses are facing lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in environmental damages for allegedly purchasing cattle raised illegally in a protected area in the Brazilian Amazon.
The Exploitation of Jaci-Parana
The lawsuits, filed December 5 to 12 by the western Brazilian state of Rondonia, target the exploitation of a protected area known as Jaci-Parana, once rainforest but now mostly transformed into grassland by decades of misuse by land-grabbers, loggers, and cattle ranchers. Despite a law forbidding commercial cattle in the reserve, some 216,000 head now graze on pasture there, according to the state animal division. The lawsuits contain transfer documents showing cows going straight to the slaughterhouse from protected areas, with the information apparently provided by the illegal ranchers themselves.
Lawsuits Seek Compensation
Of the 17 lawsuits, three name JBS, along with farmers, who allegedly sold 227 cattle raised in Jaci-Parana. The suits seek some $3.4 million for “invading, occupying, exploiting, causing environmental damage, preventing natural regeneration, and/or taking economic advantage” of the protected lands. Three smaller meatpacking companies, Frigon, Distriboi, and Tangara, are also accused of causing environmental harm by buying cattle from the reserve.
Environmental Impact and Legal Consequences
The potential seriousness of the lawsuits is highlighted by a court officer’s report of being threatened with death while trying to serve an eviction notice to one of the illegal farmers in the reserve. Deforestation is a major concern in the Amazon rainforest, where many seek to profit from its vast resources through mining, timber harvesting, agriculture, and more. The lawsuits aim to put a price on the destruction of old-growth rainforest, with damages estimated at some $1 billion.
Controversy Surrounding JBS
JBS, one of the accused slaughterhouses, declined to comment on its operations in Rondonia but stated that in the Amazon as a whole, 94% of its cattle purchases are legal. However, an audit found that 12% of cattle purchased by JBS in Rondonia came from illegally deforested areas. The company has been identified as the most likely to purchase cattle from illegally deforested areas based on various factors.
The Social Impact
Jaci-Parana, a designated extractive reserve, has seen the expulsion of dozens of families who once made their living by tapping rubber trees and harvesting Brazil nuts. Land-grabbers have destroyed the once forested areas, leaving only patches along rivers. The remaining families live in fear along the riverbanks, as violence and threats from cattle farmers persist.
With the lawsuits seeking compensation and accountability, the hope is to address the environmental and social damage caused by illegal cattle-raising and deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.