The Eat with Care blog

Writing about humane farming issues by Caroline Abels, founder of Humaneitarian. Your comments and feedback welcome. (All replies are screened and posted, if thoughtful and respectful.)

What’s the Amazon got to do with humanely raised meat?

August 23, 2019

A fire in the Amazon rain forest in Brazil this week. Credit: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters via the New York Times

An update to my thinking on this topic can be found here.

Hi folks – the Humaneitarian blog has been on hiatus, while I’ve been busy starting my own farm. But seeing today’s alarming photographs of the Amazon rainforest burning for miles on end has got me wanting to make the connection between choosing humanely raised meat and protecting this essential rainforest ecosystem so necessary for planetary stability.

See, Brazil exports beef. It’s the world’s top exporter of beef. And a lot of Amazon rainforest is cleared for that beef to be raised. The world can’t afford to lose much more of the Amazon because the rainforest is a major digester of the carbon we put into the atmosphere. So it follows that if Brazil cleared less of the Amazon for beef, the rainforest could be better protected and climate change could be slowed — certainly not stopped, but slowed.

This makes me not want to buy Brazilian beef. I can’t in good conscience give my money to corporations that are clearing the Amazon. Because of lax labeling laws, none of us can be sure whether the beef we buy is from Brazil or not. But because I am concerned about humane treatment of cows, and therefore buy pastured, grass-fed beef directly from small farmers in my home state of New York, I am by default not buying Amazonian beef. 

When we care how farm animals are raised, and make it a point to buy only humanely raised meat, we tend to get it from responsible farms. So there are all sorts of trickle-down benefits to buying it: benefits to our land, to our health, to our communities. You can add “preserving the Amazon” to the list.

The current fires in the rainforest, contrary to public perception, are not in pristine areas that were never deforested. They are in areas that were already cleared for agriculture. But that’s just it — those areas were cleared for agriculture. Cleared, perhaps, for beef I won’t eat.