Waiting for the next meat scandal is not an option

11 October 2013

Minister Ploumen (foreign trade and development cooperation) announced that during her trip to Brazil she would raise questions around land grabbing in the sugarcane industry in Mato Grosso. During a Dutch TV programme called Nieuwsuur we saw that farm owners forcibly expel indigenous people from their land claiming the land has been taken from them illegally.

The minister expressed concerns that Dutch financial institutions have invested in sugarcane production in Brazil. While Minister Ploumen was raising these questions in the context of trade relations with Brazil, we urged her to also question the appalling conditions in which 750,000 workers in the Brazilian meat industry are working, ranging from slavery and forced labour to inhumane and dangerous conditions with a permanent risk of injury. In the past 10 years, the Brazilian government was able to liberate 11,483 employees working in forced labor and slavery. Whopping 32 deaths and 19,453 accidents in 2011 illustrate these poor conditions.

Moreover, due to a constant need for land expansion for livestock, the beef industry – along with soy – is the main cause of deforestation in Brazil, with alarming consequences for the climate. The situation in the meat industry in Brazil is truly harrowing and affects us all, because every day there is a little bit of Brazil on your plate when you enjoy a burger or a kebab.

Brazil’s meat industry

With no less than 8.512 million square kilometres, Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and the largest country in South America. A fast-growing emerging economy, Brazil is seventh in the list of the world’s largest economies and the largest exporter of meat to consumers in 150 different countries. Brazil produces a total of 13.2 million tons of poultry, 9.5 million tonnes of beef and 3.4 million tons of pork annually. Three large private companies dominate the landscape of the meat industry in Brazil with 750,000 employees. Mc Donald’s, Subway, Burger King, KFC and Pizza Hut as well as Lidl, Aldi, Albert Heijn, Super de Boer, Makro, Boni, Spar, Dirk van de Broek and C1000 are their main customers.

I call on Minister Ploumen to address the alarming conditions in the meat industry with her counterpart in Brazil. Waiting for the next meat scandal is not an option.

Image by: Emily Raw (CC license)