Indigenous groups from the Brazilian and Colombian Amazon are suing retail giant Groupe Casino in France, for selling beef linked to deforestation and land theft. It is the first time a supermarket chain has been taken to court under a French due diligence law adopted in 2017.
The 11 indigenous groups, backed by NGOs in the US and France, are reportedly seeking €3.1 million ($3.7 million £2.7 million) for damage to their land and loss of livelihoods.
They say that in spite of evidence linking the world’s biggest meat company, JBS, to deforestation and slave labour, Groupe Casino continues to buy from it.
Casino controls Brazil’s largest food retailer, Grupo Pão de Açúcar (GPA) and through that Colombian retailer Almacenes Exito. Casino’s South American operations account for 47 per cent of global revenues.
The groups allege Casino regularly bought beef from three slaughterhouses owned by JBS. Those slaughterhouses sourced cattle from nearly 600 suppliers responsible for deforesting at least 50,000 hectares, an area five times the size of Paris, between 2008 and 2020.
In one documented case, land owned and managed by the Uru Eu Wau Wau community in the State of Rondônia, Brazil was invaded and put into production by cattle farms supplying beef to Casino’s Pão de Açúcar.
Casino has said GPA controls the origin of beef delivered by its suppliers, and that its supplier criteria demands “zero Amazon deforestation, no slave-like labour conditions, no child labour and no invasions of indigenous land or conservation areas.” It says ranchers must hold land ownership documents.
“The demand for beef brings the murder of indigenous leaders when they resist”
France’s Duty of Vigilance law requires France-based companies with over 5,000 employees to take adequate and effective measures to prevent serious human rights and environmental violations in their entire supply chains.
Luiz Eloy Terena, of the Terena people of Brazil, said, “The demand for beef by Casino and Pão de Açúcar brings deforestation, land grabbing, violence, and the murder of indigenous leaders when they choose to resist.
“We seek to hold the company accountable for the consequences of these impacts and to bring some relief to the reality confronted by our Indigenous Peoples on their lands.”
Fany Kuiru Castro of the Uitoto people of Colombia, said, “Cattle ranching, monocultures and other extractive industries are exterminating indigenous peoples.”
Boris Patentreger, co-founder of Envol Vert, said, “In 2021, in a world where we can technically trace and monitor everything, Casino, which has seen tremendous growth in South America in the last years, fails to eliminate deforestation from all its supply chain. That’s unacceptable!”
Nico Muzi, Europe director of Mighty Earth, said, “JBS is not only the largest meat company in the world but it’s also one of the worst forest destroyers in Brazil. For this reason Groupe Casino must drop JBS altogether.
“We also call on other leading European supermarkets such as Carrefour, Tesco, Albert Heijn and Lidl to break their links to deforestation and drop JBS, the slaughter of the Amazon.”