Cattle Ranching in Brazil

Cattle ranching in Brazil has been one of the major driving forces behind deforestation. 80% of deforested areas in Brazil are used for cattle ranching. This is creating a significant problem as the cattle industry is quickly replacing the natural forests. Many leaders have come up with programs in an attempt to draw ranchers into other industries to protect Brazil’s remaining forests. However, this is still an ongoing problem and it is extremely vital to preserve and maintain our world’s remaining forests.

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Social Impacts
Cattle Ranching requires large areas of land, usually taking place in remote areas. These areas lack necessary resources and services for people living in these small communities. This can make it especially hard for cattle ranchers and those who work there as they are not provided with certain facilities to assist in living comfortably.

Thousands of people are forced to work on Brazil’s cattle ranches. They work in terrible conditions and are treated unfairly. Interviewed by CNN: Seu Luiz, a 69 year old who worked in cattle ranching had to sleep on the floor of a cattle corral, with no bathroom and only a small tap outside used for washing. He received no money for two years and the ranch owner provided him with food but deducted this from his wage. The owner then claimed that he owed him money for the food. Seu Luiz owed no money to the owner but was afraid to leave for his family’s safety. Another victim of slavery in the Amazon; Maria Dalva Sousa, had been living with her husband and son in a shack at a cattle ranch. She said, “I just want to get out of here, nobody deserves to live like this, look at this mud, only rats can sleep in a place like this.” Cattle ranching negatively impacts the workers and it is extremely crucial to prevent any current or future exploitation of workers in the cattle ranching industry.

Economic impacts
Cattle ranching is a very large industry in Brazil. Many countries source their beef from Brazil and this helps to provide jobs and income for cattle ranchers. Cattle ranching is a low maintenance job and a low risk investment. Farmers can raise their cattle on cheap land where there is grass already growing, which is why it may appear as an appealing job. However, in the long run, it does not provide farmers with a lot of income and they may find it hard to maintain and care for the cattle.

Environmental Impacts
Cattle ranching in Brazil is causing many environmental consequences. Even though there may be short term profits for the cattle ranchers, there are many long-term impacts.

340 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are released every year due to deforestation caused by cattle ranching, this makes up 3.4% of global emissions. The Slash and Burn agricultural practise is used to create cattle pastures. This method involves cutting and burning plants in the forest to make way for new fields. The clearing and burning of these forests is releasing millions of tonnes of greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere every year, contributing to the rises in our earth’s temperature. The process of deforestation not only creates more carbon dioxide but also decreases the number of trees that are able to absorb this carbon dioxide (carbon sinks).

The land that farmers use for cattle ranching is degrading as farmers aren’t investing in keeping the soil healthy. As the land degrades, the farmers struggle to gain an income due to the quality of land deteriorating. This forces them to deforest new areas and create new pastures. This becomes an endless cycle as farmers are unable to keep their soil healthy and continuously create new pastures. Overgrazing also accelerates the soil degradation due to soil erosion and loss of nutrients.
Loss of biodiversity is another consequence of cattle ranching. The Brazilian forests are homes to many native animals. Deforestation of these forests eliminates many natural resources not only for humans but animals. Animals are without homes and food to sustain life. If the deforestation continues, many animals may become extinct if they are unable to adapt to new environments. Cattle ranching is destroying our environment and it is absolutely critical to take action to prevent further destruction to our environment.
Reasons why farmers continue ranching
There are many barriers as to why ranchers cannot switch to other methods of work. Cattle ranching is not very profitable but farmers still refuse to enter other types of work. Soybean farming earns around four times the wage of a cattle rancher. Ranchers continue in this line of work because farmers can raise their cattle on cheap land where there is grass already growing. However, after time, overgrazing and nutrient loss can turn these pastures into an eroded wasteland. Ranchers also choose not to change into other farming industries because they would require access to roads and transportation methods to get their products to the hands of buyers, this is very hard in remote areas that lack these resources. The starting costs for farmers can also be expensive due to necessary agricultural machinery to be able to manage their crops on large pieces of land.

Demand for beef

Brazil is one of the main sources for beef. Globally, cattle production has doubled since the 1960’s, each year increasing at around 28 million. Due to the current increase in our population, the demand for meat is also increasing. Beef is a common meat eaten by many and is very popular in many countries. The graph on the left displays the total number of cattle livestock in Brazil, India and China from 1961-2014. As seen in the graph, cattle production in Brazil has quadrupled since 1961 and is yet to continue increasing every year.

Alternative location for Cattle Ranching
The methods of cattle ranching in Brazil are unsustainable and are having many social, economic and environmental impacts. To prevent any further damage to Brazil’s forests, an alternative location to undertake cattle ranching is absolutely necessary. The United States is an appropriate place to share the burden of cattle ranching especially as it is such a large country with a lot of open land. The cattle carrying density will be immensely less to Brazil. America is also a more developed country and ranchers will be able to invest in healthy soil to prevent the need to deforest land. It may provide more jobs and income for those in America especially from the growing demand for more beef. It would benefit communities who enjoy a rural lifestyle and working with animals. Ranching is already a strong part of the economy in America. It would cause less pollution compared to the cattle ranching in Brazil because less land would need to be deforested. However, even if cattle ranching was moved to the United States, there would still be environmental consequences. The drylands in America are at risk of desertification due to overgrazing and decreasing quality in soil. Droughts are also common in America and this would be a risky job for ranchers.

In conclusion, it is absolutely imperative to take action to care for the Brazilian forests. Cattle ranching has greatly impacted the people of Brazil and their forests. To protect the Brazilian forests, cattle ranching must be moved to the United States. It would satisfy the accumulating demand for beef without the need for deforestation. This would help to decrease the rate of deforestation in Brazil and would cause less environmental destruction to our biodiversity.

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