January 6, 2021


Six Brazilian meat companies linked to ranches that use slave labour


Brazilian labour experts called on Brazilian meatpackers to review their supply chains after an investigation showed six companies purchased cattle from ranchers that use slave labour, including JBS SA, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported.


Repoter Brasil, an anti-slavery rights group, said major global meatpacker JBS has purchased cattle from two ranchers that were on a list of companies that utilised slave labour.


JBS said it has banned the two ranchers once they were on the "dirty list", but they said any ranchers suspected of using slave labour from inspectors have the right to defend themselves from allegations.


Companies are only added to a list after being found guilty in front of a panel, part of Brazil's economy ministry. The list is one of Brazil's most powerful anti-slavery tools, with 114 names listed currently.


Forced labour in Brazil is defined as modern-day slavery. These include workers facing degrading work conditions and long hours that could affect their life or health, and violate their dignity.


Companies on the "dirty list" are banned from receiving state loans, with restrictions imposed on their sales. The list is used by private banks in the country to review credit risk. It is also used by international buyers worried about their supply chains.


Xavier Plassat, who leads the Pastoral Land Commission anti-slavery campaign, said meatpackers cannot only rely on the list to ensure their supply chains are clean as those in the list are "unlucky enough to get caught", adding that meat industry slavery is widespread.


The investigation by Reporter Brasil uncovered third parties to slavery, which buy cattle from ranches that have purchased cattle from blacklisted ranches.


Lys Sobral Cardoso, a leading anti-slavery labor prosecutor in Brazil, said it is tough to make meatpackers accountable for purchasing cattle produced using slave labour. Cardoso said discussions are underway to map out the entire meat supply chain and create a legal argument to make companies responsible for their actions.


- Thomson Reuters Foundation