Professor of Latin American Studies, UCLA
Associate Director for Research
The optimistic market forecasts and the real growth of the demand for
cutter beef for processed and fast foods, which McDonald's as the World's
largest consumer and promoter of beef products stimulated, are an essential
part of the impetus to large scale deforestation and its biotic and social
I am a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. I am also
the Associate Director for Research of the Center for Latin American
Studies. I have worked in Amozonia since 1975, and have published six books
on the region, including one - Development or Destruction? The Livestock
Sector In Latin America an edited volume of an expert conference on the
role of livestock in the Latin American tropics, and have published a well
known volume of the development of Amazonia Fate of the Forest. One area I
have specialised in has been the role of livestock in regional development,
in terms of its sustainability, as well as its social and biotic costs.
Not available for this witness
Most ranching in the Amazon is not sustainable, and this has been
documented in many publications. The fact that this activity exchanges
enormous diversity for short term gain is problematic enough, but there are
also a spate of other issues.
Cattle ranching has been the main form of land encroachment and
dispossesion in Amozonia for Indigenous People. This process is widely
documented and are most thoroughly documented in the 18 volume compilation
by CEDI, produced throughout the 1980's. Hundreds of contemporary
ethnographers have explored the effect of modern contact on indigenous
groups, and provided detailed descriptions of cultural catastrophe, loss
Almost 100 million ha. have been set aside for native populations in 523
AIs (Indigenous Areas) of which slightly more than 78 million ha are
Amazonian on 311 AI. Many of these AIs shelter more than one indigenous
group. It is worth noting that 223 of the total areas or 43% are in very
preliminary phases (pre-demarcation) and thus vulnerable to invasion. Of
the 90 territories currently without any protection at all, 57 are
Amozonian (CEDI 1990).
The frontline in this process of expropriation in the post war period has
been ranching in the southerrn flank of the Amazon basin. The encroachment
of ranches proceeded along two main axes. The first follows the line of the
Belem Brasilia, and the second the line of the BR364. These roads pass
through landscapes from full savanna to high forest. The southern flanks
outside of the Amazon are formed of a complex mosaic of tropical woodland
formations including savanna, open forest, semi deciduous forest, liana
forests and gallery forests. Since the most productive grasslands in the
short term were produced from areas of slightly better soil found under
forests, these forest areas which stretch in an arc from Barra de Garcas to
Cuiaba were often cleared. The drier tropical forest, and semi-deciduous
formations are indeed the most threatened of all Latin American forest
types. It is also worth mentioning that the average holding size of the
ranches in these areas is largest anywhere in Amazonia.
The post war cattle wave affected numerous tribes because its areas of
greatest expansion were areas that had been well beyond the interest and
technical capacities of transport since the rubber boom. These ranching
forays affected the Kayapo, Xavante, Xicrin, Tembe, Urubu, Kuikuro, Juruna,
Tarirape, Ipixuna, Kararoa, Kawahib, Kreen, Akrore, Parakanan, Bororo,
Tirio, and Txukahamei, Nambikwara, Uru e wai, amony many others, through
cleaing of territories, as well as direct expulsion and invasion of these
lands - the famous 'cleaning of territories'.
This process often preceded demarcation efforts so their impact is
underestimated, since most demarcations and delimitations of native
terrains occured in the 1980s, after the livestock wave was already well
Increased Social Tension
The Brazilian Amazon has been the locus of widespread land conflict which
pitted small scale colonists against large scale, often highly subsidised
ranches, and radically altered the pattern of land distribution. I enclose
a table from a research article of mine which illustrates the pattern of
land concentration in the ranching areas compared with Amazonia as a whole,
in agricultural areas, and in livestock zones.
It is less well known that Amazonia is a zone of intense conflict and
was the scene of at least 75,000 threatening incidents and more than 3000
violent deaths in the past five years. This pattern has been typical of
regional occupation throughout the 70s and 80s but only effectively
documented recently by the catholic church.
The conflicts, fuelled by livestock land speculation, land fraud, timber
poaching and environmental degradation, became so intense that by mid 1970s
the main development corridor of the eastern Amazon, the Araguaia-Tocantins
Valley was placed underr direct control of the military. At the same
time, the state attempted to deflect migration from these violent zones
into state controlled development programs in Rondonia and Acre in western
controlled which effectively opened these regions to a cattle
frontier.Migrants flooded into the richest rubber and Brazil nut forests of
the Amazon. Just as the decline of debt peonage had freed these rubber
tappers and nutgatherers from indentured servitude, they found themselves
pitted against land speculators, and livestock interests.
Another source of social tension has been the expansion of the export
directed soy-product frontier in Mato Grosso do Sul and Goias which has
been instrumental in stimulating migration into the forest zones. Migrants
from Gaius, which formed roughly 30% of migrants on the Belem-Brasilia,
and Mato Grosso do Saul migrants into the BR354 areas of Rondonia cited
land disputes and dispossession both from soy and cattle as the main reason
The main slaughterhouses of Mato Grosso arer supplied by the larger ranches
in the 'beef shed'. Which without question have cleared forms of primary
tropical forest for pasture. The Cuiaba abattoirs derive their animals from
ranches in the Pantanal, from the savanna, and from the savanna forest
margin areas where forest has been converted. Moreover, as the main conduit
to southern Brazil, the Cuiaba abattoirs also serve animals derived from
Rondonia, which is beef quite clearly raised from former rainforest zones
(for example Ponta de Lacerda). In addition, cow-calf operations in
Rondonia can supply the closer in fattening operations nearer to Cuiaba.
Cuiaba lies at the interface of several different kinds of cattle
economies, and there is no question that some of the animals slaughtered
there are from converted rainforest areas. The late 1970s and earlt 1980s
were periods of explosive expansionof the livestock frontier in these
I have read the supplementary statement of Mr Morgenti. SINOP is clearly
located within the southern Amazonia forest mosaic. Nova Xavantina also
lies within within this forest mosaic. Having done research in this
specific area, I can confirm that these regions embraced large areas of
forest, which have been largely incinerated by the ranching industry.
54/55 Bordon had ranches in Acre, in the mid 1980s which was the site of a
very famous rubber tapper vs ranching show-down, as well as a very large
ranch funded with fiscal incentives in Barra de Carcas, which cleared
various forest types as well as using natural grasslands. The Bordon
ranches in Acre were the site of major land conflicts and rainforest
My conclusions are based on my 20 years of research field work in Amazonia
and tropical land use and their consequencies. The optimistic market
forecasts and the real growth of the demand for cutter beef for processed
and fast foods, which McDonald's as the World's largest consumer and
promoter of beef products stimulated, are an essential part of the impetus
to large scale deforestation and its biotic and social consequences.
10th JULY 1996
1. I HAVE RECENTLY READ THE STATEMENT OF SR MORGANTI DETAILING THE COLLECTION POINTS/VILLAGES WHICH ARE THE SOURCES IN GOIAS STATE OF MCDONALD'S BEEF SUPPLIES, AND I HAVE JUST REVIEWED THE TESTIMONY OF SUE BRANFORD (TRIAL TRANSCRIPT DAY 251 PAGES 16 - 27). I CAN CORROBERATE HER EVIDENCE CONTAINED IN THOSE PAGES FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCE AND RESEARCH. THIS MATERIAL IS ALSO WIDELY REVIEWED IN THE ACADEMIC LITERATURE.
7. I HAVE NOW BEEN INFORMED THAT SR MORGANTI HAS MADE A FURTHER STATEMENT TO THE EFFECT THAT HE HAS VISITED RANCHES SUPPLYING MCDONALD'S FROM THE ABOVE AREAS AND SOME 'AROUND CUIABA' AND THAT THEY WERE 'LONG ESTABLISHED'.
2. The Barra de Garcas municipio (a huge county) has historically been quite famously contested, and was in forest when I visted there for my dissertation research in l978. I have visited this region five other times in the years l976, l978, l982, l984 and l987 and personally witnessed the replacement of forest with cattle ranching. This part of Amazonia received the lions share of the fiscal incentives, and so was a site of very aggressive transformer of forest-to-livestock activities.
3. The whole of western Goias State along the River Araguaia and its tributaries, in particular the area bordered by the R. Araguaia (and beyond - almost as far as Cuiaba if the forest around the intervening rivers is taken into consideration) to the west, Barra do Garcas-Jussara-Goias to the south(and beyond), the State border near San Miguel do Araguaia-Porangatu to the north (and beyond), and the BR 153 (and beyond) to the east is an area that was in the process of transformation in l978 through to the present day.
4. The indigenous issues (involving the violent displacement and relocation of whole communities) have been authoritatively documented, for example by
Dr. Charles Wagley for the Barra de Garcas area. Survival International published a fact finding review of indigenous issues in Amazonia in l971 which outlined in detail the similar abuses that transpired along the Belem-Brazilia corridor and its feed roads (along the BR153 route), and this dreadful situation has continued up to the present. The corridor follows this Belem-Brazilia highway and has been almost entirely deforested on either side for 70 - 150 kms since it was opened in l960. The further towards Goias one progresses the wider the swathe and clearing becomes, clearly visible from aerial satellite images. Some of the areas described in Mr Morganti's Goias list fall into this arena.
Other ranches that are closer to the wide Cuiaba-Barra do Garcas corridor connect to the clearing areas of the Belem-Brasilia and are clearly part of the deforestation front. This has also been documented by many scholars in Europe, Brazil and the US including Gerd Kohlhepp, Brent Millikin, Alfredo Wagner, George Martine and myself, among many others. This process of transformation is very well documented for both the Belem-Brazilia corridor and the Cuiaba region. I am somewhat surprised that these statements are being contested at all.
5. The municipios of Barra do Garcas and San Miguel de Araguia had increases in their livestock populations that were truly extraordinary in the l960s, l970s and l980s, essentially augmenting their numbers from around 200,000 to over a million and a half animals. This was done largely at the expense of forest.
6. Let me add that in support of the testimony of Sue Branford, headwater areas of the Araguaia (including its tributaries in the western part of Goias State) were largely covered by tropical amazonian forest, which included many of the areas named by Sr Morganti, as Ms Branford had indicated. The "legal Amazonia" is merely part a bureaucratic and administrative formality. It in no way captures a biotic and geographic truth, but really only sets formal limits on where certain agencies can act (such as SUDAM, the superintendency for Amazonia), where certain credit lines can apply and so on. It describes a policy region and not an ecological or bioregion. The River Araguaia (and its own tributaries), as one of the major tributaries of the Amazon, certainly constitutes part of the Amazonian forests.
8. Many of these farms were subdivided into new ranches as speculative ventures. While the Cuiaba area has had a ranching economy for more than a hundred years, the earlier farms tended to be on native grasslands, but the real explosion in ranching during the last decades resulted from deforestation which dramatically advanced the ranching frontier. The same applies to the aforementioned Goias areas. The recently established farms are virtually entirely in areas converted from forest, and I have no doubts that such farms would have been the dominant suppliers throughout the last 20 years of the beef cattle for the nearby abbattoirs, such as Goias Carne. Most of the slaughter animals were derived from the newly created pastures, in contrast with Sr. Morganti's views.
9. While there certainly are some long established ranches in the Goias region, the fattening farms supplying Goias Carne would have certainly relied on fattening up steers which had been derived from the Belem-Brazilia corridor. As I indicated, these fattening animals are derived in large part from rain forest areas.
10. I am certain that a substantial proportion of cattle supplied to Cuiaba meat plants (1979 - 1982) and to Goias Carne for the last 20 years (up till now) would have been from cattle from rainforest areas.
11. In addition, established farms have been important elements of the deforestation process.
a. the initial farms were often extremely large, and could easily be subdivided, and this process was very widespread.
- b. by Brazilian law one is only permited to clear 50% of a holding.
But by selling the uncleared part, that portion can be 50% cleared and thus through a process of sub-division large amounts of clearing can occur.
- c. established farms were often the platform for subsequent expansion into forest and the development of adjacent ranches, often providing critical infrastructure such as air strips, roads, and loading corrals - while other ranches were in the process of developing these costly infrastructural improvements. Aerial photos clearly show this process of a development nucleus growing out from an established center.
12. It might be valuable to point out that the Belem-Brazilia, as well as the Cuiaba connector roads were initially designed specifically as part of the beef shed for Brasilia and the points to the south. Indeed they were meant to provide not only meat on the hoof, but also the young steers and heifers for fattening in areas closer to the main abbatoirs nearer the urban centres and markets (including in Sao Paulo State). This is a well known, standard practice, and I have researched these 'cow-calf' operations myself in some detail, establishing that substantial amounts of beef reared on recently cleared ex-rainforest land thereby enters the general market through the fattening farms of Central Brazil.
13. I HAVE BEEN INFORMED THAT LORD VESTEY HAS TESTIFIED THAT IN THE MID-1980s HIS COMPANY'S MEAT PLANT AT BARRETOS, SAO PAULO, SLAUGHTERED OVER 150,000 HEAD OF CATTLE EACH YEAR WHICH HE STATED WOULD HAVE BEEN RAISED OUTSIDE THE REGION (FROM UNKNOWN SOURCES) AND BROUGHT IN TO THE REGION TO BE FATTENED. ASSUMING BARRETOS PURCHASED CATTLE ON THE MARKET IN THE NORMAL WAY, IN MY OPINION IT IS A CERTAINTY THAT A SUBSTANTIAL PROPORTION OF SUCH CATTLE WOULD HAVE BEEN THOSE WHICH HAD BEEN RAISED IN FORMER RAINFOREST AREAS AND TRANSPORTED TO SAO PAULO AND OTHER NEARBY FARMS TO BE FATTENED FOR SLAUGHTER.
21 February 1996