More intensive beef production can limit deforestation in Brazil where the space used to rear cattle is ten times what you see in other countries, according to WWF Brazil CEO Denise Hamu.
The majority of deforestation in the Amazon is being driven by the spread of cattle ranches with one report estimating that 40 per cent of Brazil's cattle are currently kept within the confines of the Amazon, where illegally occupied forest land is available cheaply. In total, cattle occupy around 80 per cent of land already in legal use in the Amazon.
But speaking to the Ecologist this week, Hamu says 'scaling up' beef production in Brazil would reduce the pressure to clear rainforest. 'This doesn't mean we are going to put them in jail but it means we need to review our productivity parameters and how we can really get into the market without deforesting,' she said.
She said protecting against deforestation would only work if it was driven by consumers refusing to buy products that come from unknown sources.
'Sometimes we tend to expect that governments are going to solve everything but if the society doesn't engage and doesn't realise that we are part of the problem and part of the solution - no matter how many laws, how many protocols we sign in the multilateral world - we won't change anything,' said Hamu.
Europeans also needed to understand the Amazon could not remain idyllic and untouched, she said. 'Here in Europe, there are many enlightened people, but they say, how come we are managing the forests? They still have this very old fashioned idea that you cannot touch.'
In a statement after this interview was published WWF said it wished to make clear that it did not support factory farming, rather a better use of land resources.
'Most beef consumed in the UK is extensively reared, be it grown in England or Brazil, and stocked at low densities. The position is very clear we need to utilise land better and raise more cattle on the land, increase productivity. As long as the inputs used are sustainable and ensure the ground remains fertile without impacting on other resources, be it infecting water resources from run off – fertiliser and manure - to growing feed or displacing farmers.'
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