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Tesco facing calls to cut ties to meat supplier over alleged links to Amazon deforestation

Supermarket says it does not sell any beef, chicken or pork from Brazil

Sarah Young
Wednesday 05 August 2020 10:18 BST
‘Illegal’ burning of Amazon rainforest

Greenpeace is urging Tesco to stop buying meat and dairy from companies they say are involved in destroying the Amazon.

The environmental organisation is also calling on the retailer to halve the amount of meat it sells by 2025 to help protect wildlife, the climate and people.

According to Greenpeace, Tesco is buying meat from companies that are linked to the destruction of the Amazon, which it states is being burned and cleared to make way for cattle ranching and growing soy for animal feed.

However, the retailer has said it does not sell any beef, chicken or pork from Brazil, and has set targets to make sure soy used in its supply chains does not cause deforestation.

In response to Greenpeace’s appeal, Tesco has also urged the government to mandate companies to do due diligence on their supply chains to ensure food sold in the UK is deforestation-free.

Industrial scale meat production, including clearing land for beef production and to grow crops such as soy used as feed for meat and dairy livestock, is the biggest driver of deforestation around the world, Greenpeace said.

As the Covid-19 pandemic rages, there are concerns that forest destruction is on the rise in Brazil, with more fires burning in the Amazon where they have been set to clear land.

Greenpeace adds that the fires release millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, harm wildlife, threaten the lives and livelihoods of indigenous people, and cause air pollution.

The group also states that two thirds of the 3.2 million tonnes of soy the UK imports each year comes from South America, adding that it has been told by Tesco that the supermarket chain uses 516,000 tonnes of that figure, with almost all of it used as feed to produce meat and dairy products.

The organisation has accused the supermarket of pushing back the goal to end its part in deforestation for commodities such as soy from a 2020 date to 2025, and of not having a credible plan to get there.

Greenpeace also raised concerns that rather than tracing soy supplies back to the farm, Tesco purchased credits to certify a volume of soy equivalent to the amount in their supply chain has been produced sustainably.

Anna Jones, head of forests at Greenpeace UK, said: “The Amazon is perilously close to tipping point.

“Scientists warn that in fewer than 20 years it could collapse with catastrophic consequences for Indigenous groups, forest wildlife, our health and the climate.”

She continued: ”Unless Tesco commits to significantly reducing meat and dairy sales and drops forest destroyers immediately, vitally important forests will continue to be slashed and burned, and climate change and the risk of future pandemics will only get worse.

“Our future depends on us eating less meat and dairy and more plant-based food. This way, we could feed more people with all the calories and nutrition needed for a healthy diet without destroying forests.”

However, Tesco has said it is on track to deliver zero net deforestation by 2020 through the certification process, and had brought in tougher 2025 targets to ensure soy was from whole areas and regions verified as deforestation-free.

Dave Lewis, group chief executive of Tesco, said: “Setting fires to clear land for crops or grazing is destroying precious habitats like the Brazilian rainforest. It must stop.

“That's why we support Greenpeace's aim to prevent further Amazon deforestation. That's why Tesco does not buy meat from Brazil. It's why we will hit our target of zero deforestation in our soy animal feed through certification this year. And it's why we commit to do more, setting tougher targets for 2025.”

Lewis added that while shoppers did not want supermarkets to remove meat, there was a need to reduce meat and dairy consumption, and the company's plant-based protein lines had increased by 46 per cent since last year.

He also urged the government to act across the whole food system “taking into account economic recovery, health, environment and crucially, affordability”.

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