An Investigation Revealed the Full Effects of Cattle Farming in the Amazon

Spoiler alert: it's really, really bad

Deforestation in the Amazon
Deforestation in the Amazon
Juancho Torres/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

During the last six years, an area larger than the state of Connecticut was destroyed within the Amazon rainforest to make way for cattle farming. That’s the biggest takeaway from a new Guardian investigation into the beef industry’s effect on the famed rainforest — one which might be on the verge of losing its status as a rainforest should the destruction of its trees continue. “The Amazon grasslands” just doesn’t have the same ring to it; it would also be disastrous from a climate change perspective.

The investigation — a joint effort from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), the Guardian, Repórter Brasil and Forbidden Stories — points out that 800 million trees were felled between 2017 and 2022. The pace accelerated once Jair Bolsonaro took office after winning Brazil’s presidential election in the fall of 2018. Based on the investigators’ analysis of satellite data and other information, it led them to the conclusion that 4.2 million acres were deforested during this period. To compare that to U.S. states, that figure is right between Connecticut and New Jersey in terms of total area.

As the Guardian points out, the beef industry has vowed to avoid farms engaged in deforestation. This investigation suggests that someone is either not taking that seriously or turning a blind eye towards companies engaging in this behavior.

Brazil’s new head of state, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, pledged to stop deforestation, and the government has taken a more active role — including raids against loggers — in addressing the issue. As with many measures related to climate change, there’s a big question looming over these efforts: will they be enough?

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