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UK military beef supplier buys from sanctioned Brazilian farmers, investigation shows

Beef served to UK military personnel in the Middle East was sourced from a Brazilian company whose suppliers have illegally deforested more than 8,000 hectares of land, including in the Amazon and Cerrado

UK armed forces in the Middle East are being served beef from a Brazilian company whose suppliers have illegally cleared more than 8,000 hectares (ha) of land – including swathes of the Amazon and Cerrado biomes. The case was revealed by a new Earthsight report, resulting from an investigation in partnership with Repórter Brasil.

The report shows that beef used by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) in Bahrain is supplied by, among others, Frigorifico Sul Ltda (Frigosul), a part of the FugaCouros group – one of Brazil’s largest leather producers.

The company bought thousands of cattle from farmers who were fined a total of 33.5 million Brazillian real (about $6 million) by various authorities for malpractice, including illegal land clearance, falsifying documents and pollution.

Frigosul told Earthsight it uses a third-party to monitor suppliers and therefore it is not possible that the firm could purchase from ranches sanctioned by IBAMA: “Frigosul, by conviction and by the principles itself, does not buy cattle from rural properties that are on the embargo list, as the company does not agree with the attitudes of those on the embargo list.”

However, the investigation claims that, since 2018, two of the company’s slaughterhouses sourcedbeef from suppliers that had previously deforested almost 9,000 hectares (19,768 acres). Two-thirds of the roughly R$33.5m (£6m)in fines accrued by Frigosul’s suppliers over the past two decades remain unpaid, says the report.

Lack of traceability

As well as Frigosul, the Brazillian firm Minerva was also named as a supplier to the UKarmed forces in Bahrain.

Minerva told Earthsight that cattle purchases in the Amazon biome are “100% made on monitored farms”. “If any irregularity is identified,” the statement added. “The Company’s sustainability department blocks suppliers in non-compliance with any of the criteria, eliminating the possibility of purchasing raw material from such producers.”

However, the investigation has identified a known Minerva supplier in the Amazon state of Rondônia seemingly moving cattle from aranch,with embargoed areas due to illegal deforestation, to another farm in order to evade Minerva’s policy.

From his ‘clean’ farm, shows the investigation,he would then send the animals to Minerva’s Rondônia facility in Rolim de Moura – a slaughterhouse Earthsight has found to be supplying the MoD’s subcontractor in Bahrain.

Minerva told Earthsight thar does not have effective means of verifying and tracking indirect suppliers. When informed of the case, the company said they would investigate and take “appropriate measures” if any irregularity were found.

Its statement added that the problem of monitoring indirect suppliers is deep-rooted in the sector: “There is currently no accessible and reliable data and statistics on the complete livestock traceability chain to determine the number of indirect suppliers in Brazil.”

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