Tesco has been accused of fuelling the destruction of the Amazon rainforest by selling beef from cattle reared on land stolen from the jungle.
During a two-year investigation, Greenpeace found that canned beef from cows on illegally-deforested pasture had found its way on to the shelves of the UK's biggest supermarket chain.
Last night Tesco said it had dropped the supplier responsible. Converting rainforests into cattle pasture is the biggest source of Amazonian deforestation, accounting for 62 per cent of the 766,000 square kilometres lost during the past 40 years.
In 2009 the four largest beef and leather companies in Brazil – JBS/Friboi, Bertin, Minerva and Marfrig – signed a public commitment to stop buying beef from newly-deforested land, but the Greenpeace report, published today, suggests that the biggest producer, JBS, which supplies Tesco, has broken its undertaking.
Investigators from the environmental group traced the beef to outlets of leading supermarkets in Europe.
According to Greenpeace, cattle from 12 farms in Mata Groso state, 10 inside the protected Maraiwatsede Indigenous Reserve and two accused of illegal deforestation by Brazil's environmental agency IBAMA, were supplied to JBS's slaughterhouse in the city of Barra do Garcas, in Mato Grosso. The beef was then shipped to southern and central Brazil for processing and canning.
The report, "JBS Scorecard: How the biggest meat company on the planet is still slaughtering the Amazon", said this "tainted chain of custody" entered the supply chain of supermarkets in the Netherlands and Tesco in the UK.
Greenpeace investigators checked the shelves of 300 Tesco stores in February and found that almost all were selling JBS products including corned beef, tinned mince and steak chunks.
Greenpeace's forests campaigner Sarah Shoraka said: "Tesco's supplier JBS refuses to tackle the problem. Tesco needs to take the bull by the horns and stop selling beef that destroys the Amazon."
Last night Tesco said it had terminated its contract with JBS. A Tesco spokesperson said: "We started to cut back our supplies from JBS a year ago and have now ceased sourcing any canned beef products from JBS. Ethics and sustainability remain an important part of our dialogue with suppliers."