Today, online magazine Spiked is taking a scalpel to Greenpeace’s claim that British retailers of meat and leather are responsible for Amazonian deforestation. In a recent interview with the Guardian, a Greenpeace activist declared that his group has proof that some major British supermarkets are buying meat from illegal farmers in Brazil. But as Spiked writer Ben Pile discovers, what Greenpeace brings to the table isn’t a “smoking gun.” It is more like a water pistol.
The suggestion is that these companies are complicit in illegal deforestation and therefore culpable. However, the ‘smoking gun’ which Greenpeace claims links companies to illegal deforestation amounts to no more than an allegation that trade that has been ‘contaminated’ with some beef from farms that had extended into rainforest. The evidence of this global conspiracy produced by Greenpeace are documents representing the sale of less than 9,000 head of cattle – hardly a huge amount given Brazil’s estimated stock of 200 million.
As we’ve said before, the connection between beef and global warming has been grossly and irresponsibly overstated time and again. One commonly cited U.N. report on Brazilian meat production has been widely debunked for exaggerating beef’s impact on greenhouse gas production by a factor of three. Even data from the Environmental Protection Agency is at odds with what the U.N. found in its faulty study.
Clearly this is another case where Greenpeace is using environmental scare tactics to motivate everyone to eat less meat (or fish). But as Pile argues,
[I]t is hard to see how focusing on land, trees and cows will raise the standard of living for people whose labour and lives are cheap. Such campaigns seem to express greater solidarity with wood than with people.
Coming from a group that regularly puts its own knee-jerk aversion to agriculture technology before the needs of the world’s starving, we can’t say we’re surprised.