Brazil’s new environment minister, Carlos Minc is committed to serious punative action when it comes to the estimated 60,000 cows that are raised on illegally deforested land in the region of Amazonia.
In fact, cattle pasture now covers 7.8% of the Amazon region, with an ever growing presence as worldwide demand for beef skyrockets. Illegal cattle grazing helped Brazil become the world’s largest beef exporter in 2004, but after several years of declining deforestation rates in the Amazon, degradation of the rain forest is again on the rise. The pressure to produce more and more has led many ranchers to ignore regulation.
It is rare to find a politician who is willing to stand up to an industry that is responsible for a significant portion of the GDP, but Minister Minc made good on his promises to crack down on illegal ranching last week when his office confiscated 3,100 cows from one rancher who used a nature reserve in the state of Para as pasture land, cutting away forest that got in the way of his cattle. Not only is Minc committed to punishing those who clearcut the Amazon, he sees a use for the contraband livestock. In his announcement of the ranch seizure, Mr. Minc reported that the cattle would be auctioned off to the highest bidder with proceeds directed towards Fome Zero – the national anti-hunger organization (literally, “zero hunger”). The money will also go toward helping indigenous health organizations and further livestock confiscation efforts.
The Brazilian government’s environmental ministry, known as Ibama, reported that much of the Amazon’s deforestation can be blamed on cattle farmers who ignore the boundaries of protected areas in search of ideal ranching land. For example, the rancher involved in the seizure last week had already faced fines of close to US$2 million for illegal deforestation.
This move is an example of how environmental ministries must take decisive, punative action to stop the degradation that is fueled by in-demand industries such as ranching. Environmentalists can combine their efforts with other government programs (like Fome Zero) to emphasize the connectedness of our environment to our food, housing and health. Minister Minc is reclaiming deforested areas, raising money and awareness for the national anti-hunger campaign and making a strong statement to the agricultural community.