Raising beef is killing the Amazon. The Amazon is the largest rainforest on the planet but it’s being attacked by fire. One of Brazil’s scientific agencies, recorded 72,843 fires in the Amazon this year alone, marking an 83 percent surge compared to the same period in 2018. The rainforest is considered vital in slowing global warming. It’s also home to uncountable species of fauna and flora and, just as important, clearing and burning it creates massive soil erosion and without soil the plants can’t grow.
The ecological devastation is done in the service of the surging demand for beef, says Nathalie Walker, the director of the tropical forest and agriculture program at the National Wildlife Federation.
Cattle ranching is the largest driver of deforestation in every Amazon country, accounting for 80 percent of current deforestation rates. Amazon Brazil is home to approximately 200 million head of cattle, and while Brazil’s own consumption of beef is high, it’s the largest exporter in the world, supplying about one-quarter of the global market. Hong Kong is the biggest global importer of Brazilian beef products, bringing in about $1.5 billion worth in 2017, according to the Brazilian Beef Exporters Association. China is second, at nearly $1 billion, followed by Iran.
While the Amazon may seem far away, its destruction is affecting the whole planet. As long as there’s a high demand for beef, Brazil will continue to profit from it by cutting down the rainforest to clear space for raising beef cattle and the crops to feed them. We can all play a part in showing that we care about the health of the Amazon, by adopting a healthy, compassionate, delicious, and environmentally conscious plant-based diet.