French supermarket sued for selling beef linked to rainforest destruction

Cows graze on a field that was burnt out in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil, photo: Reuters/Ricardo Moraes
Cows graze on a field that was burnt out in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil, photo: Reuters/Ricardo Moraes

Indigenous people from Brazil and Colombia sued French supermarket chain Casino Group on Wednesday for selling beef linked to deforestation in the Amazon, campaigners involved in the lawsuit said.

It is the first time a French supermarket chain has been taken to court over deforestation under a 2017 law in France that demands its companies avoid environmental violations in their supply chains.

Casino Group controls Brazil’s largest food retailer Grupo Pão de Açúcar (GPA). The lawsuit accuses Casino Group of regularly buying beef from three slaughterhouses owned by a major Brazilian meatpacker.

Those slaughterhouses got cows from suppliers responsible for at least 50,000 hectares (123,550 acres) of deforestation between 2008 and 2020, according to the lawsuit.

“The demand for beef by Casino group and Pão de Açúcar brings deforestation and land grabbing and violence,” Luis Eloy Terena of the Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), said in a statement.

Sebastian Mabile, a lawyer for the indigenous community, said Casino Group had failed in their obligations to research their supply chains.

“We want them to pay approximately 3 million euros to the organizations that represent indigenous peoples and ensure that their activities do not entail deforestation,” Mabile told a news conference.

Casino Group said GPA checked the origin of beef delivered by its suppliers. Since 2016, GPA has introduced “zero Amazon deforestation, no slave-like labor conditions, no child labour” rules for its suppliers, Reuters reported.

An area of the Amazon rainforest the size of Israel was destroyed last year, environmental campaign groups say. Cow farming, so humans can eat beef and drink milk, is a leading driver of deforestation.

The Amazon rainforest is also home to many animals, like jaguars, pumas, monkeys, tapirs and many bird species. Deforestation for humans’ greed for meat is destroying their homes and killing animals at a rapid rate.

Worldwide population growth and the expanding middle classes of developing nations fuel the consumption of meat and dairy.

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