Leading supermarkets in Colombia are stocking and selling beef that may be produced illegally in protected nature areas. Such beef contributes to deforestation. According to the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), there are known links between protected ecosystems, cattle ranches and the supply chain behind the beef sold in Colombia.
A look at data provided by the Colombian Agricultural Institute (ICA) shows that there are well-established ranchers operating in Chiribiquete National Park. The ICA is in charge of vaccinating all herds of cattle in Colombia, whether they live in protected areas or not. The agency records the accurate names of ranches, their locations and cattle owners.
Although this information is available, ranchers still exist in protected areas. To make matters worse, these ranchers sell their products to the public through an openly known supply chain.
Investigations by the EIA have established that Grupo Éxito and Colsubsidio, two of the largest supermarkets in Colombia, purchase between 100 and 300 head of cattle per month, from a supplier whose farm operates in Chiribiquete National Park. The park has been a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2018.
The direct supplier of beef to these supermarkets has a relationship with an indirect supplier who then partners with someone else responsible for fattening cattle. The cattle are fattened on an 800-hectare farm in the northern part of Chiribiquete National Park. According to EIA, about 400 hectares of land in the Chiribiquete National Park has been deforested and converted into pasture for cattle, based on 2019 data.
“Given that in Colombia there is no traceability system for livestock that allows the consumer or buyer to know the true origin of the meat, this involuntarily supports the destruction of protected forests and extortion by armed groups and paramilitary organizations responsible for multiple human rights violations in Colombia,” the EIA said, as reported by Mongabay.
There have been efforts to address the issue of beef farming in preserved areas but with no significant results. In 2019, Grupo Éxito and 36 other entities signed an agreement pledging to eliminate deforestation, promote ecosystem restoration and reduce the carbon footprint produced by the beef industry.
Chiribiquete National Park is one of the oldest archaeological sites in the Amazon basin with well-documented ancient rock art. Conservationists are now calling on the Colombian government to take action against illegal farmers to cut their activities in protected areas.
Image via Ministry of Environment of Colombia