Full Potential Publication: Meat Consumption is Destroying the Amazon

The future of the Amazon is now in the hands of Brazil’s president, Bolsonaro, who plans to exploit the forest for agribusiness development. His strategy involves land clearing, and it is already happening at alarming rates. There has been an increase of  deforestation in the Amazon by 84% since 2018 (Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research). The very lungs of this Earth are collapsing, the Amazon is our main driver in combating the rampant escalation of climate change. 

Bolsonaro is allowing land thieves to burn down protected land in the name of capitalization. This is not just typical land clearing by logging, but physically burning the land, to create fertile pastures for meat production. This technique, often called “slash and burn” creates enormous amounts of carbon emissions on top of killing wildlife and surrounding plant species. 

Mass deforestation is part of his pro-business agenda, ignoring the catastrophic negative externalities of this short term decision making. Burning the forest is substantially reducing the oxygen flow from the declining numbers of trees, thus creating a surplus of land for thousands of cows to reside on. Cows emit methane gases, increasing global warming even more. Nature is not just at risk, people are too. Brazil’s already most marginalized community of Indigenous people are plagued by potential displacement. Bolsonaro has expressly stated that “There will not be a centimeter demarcated for indigenous or quilombo reservations”.

These Native people are the main threat to his plan. In the Brazilian constitution, Indiegnous people are protected, and as a result, they are acting as the guardians of this land. Thousands of Indigenous people are being killed and displaced for fighting as “eco-warriors”.  

Bolsonaro has found a plethora of tactics to disrupt the environmental policies in place. His cabinet is flooded with climate change deniers like himself who intend to turn the Amazon into another commodity to be abused. His ministry had previously attempted to leave the Paris Agreement and withdrew Brazil’s former proposition to host The United Nations Conference on Climate Change for 2019. In Funai, which serves as the National Indian Foundation to protect millions of Indigenous people, there have been budget cuts of almost half. Environmental milestones are being unraveled and the implications are going to be life-threatening to us all.  

Under pressure from concerned activists and environmentalists alike, Bolsonaro has taken a hard stance on his pro-business agenda with no regard to environmental degradation. When the international community intervened, Brazil refused to make a deal. His response was  “Brazil does not owe the world anything when it comes to environmental protection.” 

Bolsonaro is, however, very willing to accept deals with meat manufacturers, the most wealthy in the world. The main root of this issue stems from the largest meat producer in the world, JBS, owned by Joesley Batista and Wesley Batista. During Bolsonaro’s campaign, he had received over $200,000 worth of donations from JBS and has put them at the front of his political agenda. With the help of Bolsonaro, JBS is exploiting the Amazon’s land for cow ranches to produce millions of dollars in revenue for their company.

Now, Bolsonaro is placing the blame on NGOs for causing the recent fires. The fires that have been plaguing the Amazon are from the escalating numbers of land thieves, now under less serious repercussions due to Bolsonaro’s rule, becoming more inclined to do illegal activities. According to Scott Wallace from National Geographic, “Bolsonaro’s victory has already bolstered a sense of impunity among criminal groups that traffic in timber, exotic species, and other riches pilfered from Indigenous land.” 

People are appalled at this large scale destruction, without taking accountability for the reason the Amazon is being killed in the first place. This is because of this pro-business rhetoric we are buying into. Supply equals demand. This tragedy is not ending because America’s consumption of meat is the second highest in the world after Australia. Even Brazilians that fear for the future of the Amazon are not seeing that it is their consumption that is fueling this environmental disaster.  According to the Brazilian Beef Exporters Association, Brazil has exported 1.64 million tons of beef – the highest volume in history. 

Is eating beef worth killing our most indispensable natural assets? Is consuming a hamburger worth the lives of our Indigenous brothers and sisters? If you claim to love the environment, what are you willing to sacrifice for its survival? Science has proven that beef is the most unhealthy meat for the human body, now it is proving to be as deadly to our Earth too.

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