Brazil cattle

Twenty-six Brazilian beef producers are facing nearly $300 million in fines from Brazilian prosecutors for buying cattle raised illegally on deforested Amazon rainforest land or indigenous reservations, reports Reuters.

According to Brazilian officials, Brasil Foods, one of the food producers named on the list of offenders, faces fines of more than $17 million for buying more than 1,700 cattle who were raised on land in the Mato Grosso state that was illegally cleared.

The 26 companies were reportedly investigated after refusing to sign up under an accord in which they would have to avoid the harmful practices. The prosecutors reportedly “calculated the fines for each company based on the number of animals raised in illegal conditions that they are alleged to have bought. Prosecutors say the 26 companies bought 55,699 such cattle between January and September 2012.”

Reuters reports that illegal cattle ranching has been “one of the major drivers of Amazon deforestation in the last few decades together with illegal logging. Deforestation levels have fallen dramatically in the last decade after a government crackdown.”

A spokesman for Brasil Foods, Kristhian Kaminski, said the company had “not received official notification of any legal proceedings or of their exact nature, and therefore could not comment.”

Prosecutors added additional violations by companies that could equal more fines for purchasing cattle raised with the use of slave labor. “We want these companies to stop buying in these areas and in this way, avert further deforestation,” Rodrigo Timoteo da Costa e Silva, prosecutor in Mato Grosso state, told Reuters.

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Image: Eduardo Amorim