Stop the slaughter: NO free trade with South American beef!

Cattle herd in Mato Grosso Our appetite for meat is trashing rainforests and savannas (© alffoto / istockphoto.com)

South America's remaining forests and savannas could soon be cleared for vast cattle herds – all in the name of free trade. An agreement with the Mercosur states would flood the European market with cheap beef and in turn open the South American market for European cars. Please say NO to free trade with Mercosur.

Call to action

To: the European Commission and the governments of the Member States

A free trade agreement with the Mercosur countries would be a threat to people and the environment. Please drop the planned agreement.

Read letter

The key drivers of the EU’s planned agreement with South American countries are clear: Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay want to sell more beef, chicken, sugar and ethanol to Europe. This would lead to the further intensification of agriculture – with devastating consequences for people and the environment.

For beef, the agreement would mean a major increase in import quotas to the EU. Discussions currently revolve around raising the quota from 70,000 tons to 99,000 tons – with Mercosur hoping for as much as 200,000 tons.

Higher quotas will inevitably boost industrial agriculture: forests and savannas would be destroyed for additional feedlots and soy farms, releasing millions of tons of carbon. In Europe, overseas competition would increase the pressure on organic farmers and animal welfare.

Intensifying agriculture often harms local people. In South America, crop duster aircraft spray soy fields with herbicides such as glyphosate and frequently blanket villages with toxic chemicals. People work in a virtual state of slavery on many sugar cane plantations. Indigenous people and smallholders are driven off their land by agricultural corporations to make way for feedlots and industrialized farms.

The EU-Mercosur agreement is not limited to import quotas and tariffs, but also covers “non-tariff barriers” such as environmental standards and the rights of workers and consumers. For example, because the agreement is intended to facilitate the import of sugar into the EU, health campaigns against too much sugar in snacks and beverages could be hampered or even stopped. The situation is similar for genetically engineered plants such as soy and agricultural poisons such as glyphosate.

This agreement is dangerous and must be stopped. Please sign our petition.

Back­ground Letter

To: the European Commission and the governments of the Member States

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The EU is seeking a trade agreement with the Mercosur countries that aims to facilitate exports to Europe, in particular of beef, chicken, sugar and ethanol. This is will lead to an intensification of agriculture with negative impacts on nature and the rural population.

We see the following dangers in such an agreement:

– Higher beef quotas will lead to an increase in production in South America, to an expansion of feedlots and thus to the clearing of forests and savannas. At the same time, it would increase pressure on European farmers to intensify their production at the expense of animal welfare.

– Intensified agriculture in South America is often associated with land rights conflicts and human rights violations, including slave labor. The widespread use of agricultural toxins such as glyphosate endangers the health of many people.

– Regulations pertaining to non-tariff trade barriers endanger European environmental standards, consumer and workers’ rights. The precautionary principle enshrined in the EU is coming under pressure and democratic principles are being betrayed.

By negotiating behind closed doors, the European Commission seems to be pursuing the same strategy as with the TTIP and CETA agreements, which prompted millions to protest. The EU does not seem to have drawn any conclusions from these protests and, with the Mercosur agreement, is pursuing an equally damaging trade policy.

We call on you to scrap the planned agreement for the benefit of the people and environment on both sides of the Atlantic.

Yours faithfully,

Topic

The issue – our appetite for meat

Most people in rich countries consider meat to be essential to a good meal. That holds especially true for Americans, who each consumed 90 kilograms of meat in 2014 – in the same year, the global average was 34 kilograms. There are 19 billion chickens, 1.4 billion cows, 1 billion pigs and 1 billion sheep on the planet at any given time – that’s three head of livestock for every person.

Maintaining such a huge livestock population has a very high price: 26 percent of the world’s ice-free land is used for livestock grazing and 33 percent of the world’s cropland is dedicated to growing livestock feed. Instead of feeding humans, a significant share of the world’s wheat, corn, barley and soybeans is thus used to raise livestock. Soybean meal is the largest source of protein animal feed in the world, and the areas needed for its production are expanding into fragile ecosystems such as the Brazilian Cerrado and the Amazon.

The impact – deforestation, monocultures, climate change

Landscapes once covered by rainforest and savannah are now marked by endless industrial agriculture spaces. More than 75 million hectares are devoted to growing soy – an area three times the size of the United Kingdom. Indigenous people are frequently displaced when their forests are bulldozed or torched, and those that remain are often in grave danger due to pesticide exposure: Roundup-Ready Monsanto GMO soybean plants are grown on 31 to 38 percent of the total planted area in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. The active ingredient in Roundup is glyphosate, an herbicide that is suspected of causing cancer and damaging human DNA.

Producing meat has a profound impact on the climate: with methane from bovine stomachs, carbon released by deforestation and fossil-fueled machinery, and nitrous oxide released by synthetic fertilizer, animal agriculture accounts for 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The solution – plant power and planned indulgences

Our food choices have a direct impact on the future of the rainforests: the animal products we eat account for 72 percent of all food-related greenhouse gas emissions. Their production also requires many times more farmland than plant products for human consumption.

Here is how you can help protect your health, the environment and the climate:

  1. Eat alternatives to meat and dairy products: Seitan steaks, lupin spreads, soy milk and other tasty and nutritious alternatives to animal products can be found in virtually any supermarket.
  2. If you must eat meat, make it an occasional treat: If you are not ready to give up meat entirely, reduce your consumption as much as possible and make meat a planned indulgence. Choosing organic meat can help further reduce the environmental impact of your diet.
  3. Say yes to soy products: Only about two percent of the world's soy crop is processed into tofu, soy yogurt and similar products. Soy for human consumption is mostly grown in Europe and does not drive deforestation.
  4. Stop food waste: Consumers in North America and Europe each waste between 95 and 110 kg of food a year – much of it meat. Planning your grocery shopping with care can literally save lives.
  5. Speak out: Tens of thousands have taken part in street protests such as the March Against Monsanto to pressure policymakers and advocate forms of agriculture that take human health, animal welfare and climate protection into account. Taking part in online petitions and writing to your elected representatives can also make a real difference.

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