An investigation has found JBS to be among six Brazilian meatpacker firms that have bought cattle from farms that use slave labour.
The findings were reported by human rights investigator Reporter Brasil earlier this week, with labour experts saying that the firms must clean up their supply chains.
The group identified cases in which JBS, Minerva and four smaller producers sourced cattle from supplier farms that employed workers in slave-like conditions, including earning as little as £8 per day and poor living conditions.
According to Reuters, employers whose workers have been rescued by labour inspectors are allowed to defend themselves and are only blacklisted if found guilty by a panel.
The report reveals that JBS bought cattle from two ranches that later ended up on Brazil’s “dirty list” of companies that used slave labour.
In an email to FoodBev, JBS said it “uses the government’s official database, the Ministry of Economy’s Forced Labour Blacklist, to block livestock purchases from farmers involved in rural violence or land conflicts, or those who use slave or child labour. The blocking occurs immediately as soon as the cattle supplier’s individual tax payer registry number, known as the CPF in Brazil, appears on the list.”
At the time of the purchase, JBS told FoodBev that the cases were not on the Forced Labour Blacklist.
The meatpacker added: “We have a zero-tolerance approach to forced labour and also urge anyone who suspects or has evidence of individual or farm-level malpractice to report it to the authorities so it can be appropriately addressed.”
Cited by Reuters, Xavier Plassat, who heads the Pastoral Land Commission anti-slavery campaign, said meatpackers cannot rely only on the dirty list to ensure clean supply chains and they only include the names of those unlucky enough to get caught. He emphasised that meatpackers do not take in to account those who supply their suppliers.
Brazil’s meat processing industry has repeatedly come under fire for poor working conditions and the report follows similar investigations by Reporter Brasil.
Other firms named in the report were allegedly third parties to slavery, meaning they purchased cattle from ranches that bought their cattle from blacklisted ranches.
Brazil anti-slavery labour prosecutor, Lys Sobral Cardoso told Reuters that legally it is difficult to make meatpackers responsible for buying cattle raised by slave labour. “We need to map the entire supply chain and then build a legal argument to make those at the top responsible,” said Cardoso.
At the end of last year, JBS’ parent company, J&F Investimentos, agreed to pay $128.25 million in criminal fines as it pleaded guilty to US foreign bribery charges.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020
World Dairy Innovation Awards – OPEN FOR EARLY BIRD ENTRIES!
The awards celebrate excellence and innovation across the global dairy industry.
Don’t miss out on having your innovations recognised on a global scale.
Early bird deadline 19 March – enter now!