Millions of wild animals killed in Brazil for soy

A small armadillo on black surface, the picture is taken from above
A dead armadillo at a burned area of the Amazon jungle, Brazil, August 17, 2020, photo: Reuters/Ueslei Marcelino

Millions of Brazilian wild animals are being killed or hurt by fires set to clear land so that soy beans can be grown to feed farm animals, activists warned this week.

Brazil is one of the world’s leading producers of soy beans, a crop that is used to feed farm animals, especially those kept in intensive, indoor farm systems.

A statement from animal rights organization World Animal Protection (WAP) said it is “urgently intervening to help wild animals suffering from devastating fires consuming their habitat in Brazil’s biodiversity hotspots.”

WAP said the fires are part of land clearing efforts to create more space to “grow crops for a lucrative trade to feed farmed animals on cruel factory farms worldwide.”

Last year, Brazil’s national institute for space research, the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE), counted a total of almost 223,000 fires. 

This year, up to September, the INPE has counted almost 137,000 fires, and many more are expected to be set in October, November and December, WAP said.

Two Brazilian organizations, the Instituto Homem Pantaneiro (IHP) and the Pantanal/MS Technical Animal Rescue Group (GRETAP), are working with WAP to rescue injured animals in the Pantanal and Cerrado areas of Brazil. The teams are building escape routes and providing water and food.

The Pantanal is the world’s largest wetland, and the Cerrado is the largest savanna or grassland in South America. Both are known for their rich diversity of plants and animals. 

The Cerrado, which contains 5% of the world’s species, has become a major centre for soybean production, WAP said.

Baby deer burnt
Describing some of the harm caused by the fires Joao Almeida, WAP Brazil director, said his team had seen “baby deer with their legs burned, animals such as monkeys and jaguars completely carbonized, and others with their paws burnt, completely dehydrated or starving.”

Almeida said WAP could “no longer ignore the link between factory farming and the irresponsible behaviour of the big companies driving this devastation.”

“As demand for meat increases around the world, devastating land clearance in the region worsens” to make way for soy crops, the statement said. 

It added that the pesticides and fertilizers needed to grow the soy were “polluting river courses and poisoning wildlife.”

In the same statement Letícia Larcher, a biologist working with the IHP, said it was estimated that last year “over 17 million animals died” in the Pantanal area due to the fires.

More generally, WAP said that in 2020 these types of fires likely affected at least 65 million native vertebrates and 4 billion invertebrates.

The types of animals harmed or killed by the fires, it said, include jaguars, giant anteaters, marsh deer, the crowned solitary eagle and the hyacinth macaw. 

WAP said the animals either suffered directly due to death or injuries or indirectly due to habitat loss and shortages of food and other resources.

World Animal Protection is calling for a stop on building new factory farms as a way of tackling the “root cause of these fires and to protect millions of wild animals that are suffering” due to animal feed production.

Asked for comment Brazilian soy lobby, Aprosoja Brasil, did not immediately respond.


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