An investigation has linked the world's largest meat processing company to a farm run by a man accused of ordering a brutal massacre in Brazil. Valdelir João de Souza has been on the run since the April 2017 Colniza massacre, in which nine men were shot and stabbed in an apparent effort to take over their remote forest land in Mato Grosso. As residents register their own land in Brazil, that didn't stop de Souza from making claim to two farms, Três Lagoas and Piracama, covering 2,600 acres of land the government had set aside for low-income agricultural workers in nearby Rondônia state in April 2018. A month later, those two farms—one of which showed signs of illegal deforestation—sold 143 cattle to a farm owned by a man who worked at a sawmill owned by de Souza, the Guardian reports, via Repórter Brasil. Within minutes, the purchaser sold the same 143 cattle to meat processing company JBS.
JBS and its rival Marfrig have said they will not buy from farms involved in illegal deforestation, land grabbing, or other rural conflicts. JBS even developed a complex system to monitor its suppliers after it was found to have purchased cattle from farms in illegally-deforested areas in 2016. But tracing indirect suppliers remains a huge problem. Indeed, Repórter Brasil found JBS and Marfrig in 2018 used a supplier that had bought 153 cattle from Três Lagoas months earlier, in a process known as cattle laundering. In a statement, per the Guardian, JBS claims any attempt to link the company to de Souza, "who was never on its list of suppliers, is irresponsible." Meanwhile, Marfrig, which acknowledges that 53% of its Amazon cattle comes from indirect suppliers, says it is "fully aware of the challenges related to the livestock production chain" and is working with the World Wildlife Fund to improve its monitoring. (Read more Brazil stories.)