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Amazon fires shine spotlight on soya and beef

Eating British grass-fed and organic livestock is a way of ensuring that meat consumption will not add to the deforestation crisis in the Amazon.

That’s the message from organic certification Soil Association as fires raging across the world’s largest rainforest highlight the role of beef and soya production in Brazil and consumption in western countries.

The Brazilian government agency monitoring the Amazon in Brazil released data earlier this month that showed that the rate of deforestation this year is the highest since records began. Meanwhile, reports of widespread fires, used to clear the forest, have been building across the media.

Links have been made to Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsanaro and his favourable stance towards logging and deforestation for soya and beef farming, as well as global consumption of both products.

Earth Alliance
Fires in the Amazon have gained global attention. Image Earth Alliance.

“The fires in the Amazon are associated with land-clearance for soy production and cattle farming,” said the Soil Association’s head of food and health policy, Rob Percival.

“If we want to help here in the UK we should eat less intensively farmed, grain-fed poultry and pork, and more local, sustainable, grass-fed meat like organic.

“When purchasing soy-based products, look for organic certification, as organic standards prohibit soy from being grown on land converted from rainforests,” he said.

Around half of the world’s soya crop is grown in Brazil and Argentina, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. Protein-rich soya is used to make oils and is used in many food ingredients, but the vast majority (70 per cent) goes into animal feed.

As a result, the average European consumes around 61 kg of soy a year, largely indirectly through animal products such as chicken, pork, salmon, cheese, milk and eggs, according to the WWF.

Richard George, head of forests for Greenpeace UK, said that the crisis in the Amazon is “directly linked to overconsumption of meat and dairy in the UK and other G7 countries”, the Guardian reported.

What can you do?

As well as highlighting alternative sources of beef and soya, the Amazon fires have prompted a spike in users of the Ecosia search engine, which is an alternative to Google, and uses its profits to plant trees.

Others have pointed to supporting indigenous people in the Amazon, who have been on the frontline of deforestation action for years, via campaign groups like Amazon Watch.

Greenpeace has a petition asking the Brazilian government to save the rainforest, while Leonardo DiCaprio's environmental fund, Earth Alliance, has raised over $5 million in emergency Amazon funding.


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