Brazilian firm JBS, the world’s biggest meat processing company, was on Monday again accused of “laundering” cattle from ranches blacklisted for destroying the Amazon rainforest.
The charge, leveled in a report by an investigative journalism consortium, marks at least the fifth time in just more than a year that the company, which exports around the world, has been accused of cattle laundering.
That is a practice in which animals from a blacklisted ranch are transferred to one with a clean record to dodge a ban on sales.
The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, UK newspaper the Guardian and Brazilian journalism group Reporter Brasil said in the joint report that pictures posted on Facebook by a JBS truck driver appeared to show him and his colleagues transporting cattle from a blacklisted ranch, Estrela do Aripuana, to a “clean” one 300km away, Estrela do Sangue, in July last year.
The drivers wore JBS uniforms and drove JBS trucks in the pictures.
Estrela do Aripuana, based in Mato Grosso, which is largely covered in Amazon rainforest, was in 2012 blacklisted by the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment over the illegal deforestation of about 1,500 hectares of land. Authorities also fined its owner 2.2 million reals (about US$1 million at the time).
The consortium said it had obtained Brazilian government records indicating that at least 7,000 animals were shipped from the embargoed ranch to the “clean” one between June 2018 and August last year.
Other documents show the latter sold 7,000 animals to JBS slaughterhouses from November 2018 to November last year, it said.
JBS denies cattle laundering and says it is implementing measures to prevent third parties from sneaking such animals into its supply chain.
“We have adopted an unequivocal stance of zero deforestation,” it said in a statement, adding that it had opened an internal investigation into the latest allegations.
Brazil faces mounting pressure to slow surging deforestation after massive fires devastated the Amazon last year — often set to clear land for ranching and farming.
Several European countries have threatened to scupper a trade deal between the EU and the Mercosur trade bloc, of which Brazil is a member, over the issue.
Global investment firms managing close to US$4 trillion in assets last month wrote an open letter to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro urging him to change government policies blamed for accelerating the destruction.
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