British supermarkets and KFC ‘hide violations of indigenous rights in Brazil’

British supermarket chain and fast-food giant KFC are buying soy-fed chicken from Brazilian farms where indigenous peoples have been displaced, environmental inspectors claim.

Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Iceland and KFC are accused of procuring meat from the Worcestershire company, a major buyer of birds raised on a soy diet on farms created when indigenous groups were forcibly driven out in the 1950s. .

Since then, attempts by the Guarani Kaiowa tribe, Brazil’s second largest indigenous group, to regain access to their ancestral lands have been “ruthlessly suppressed” by authorities and landowners. report Including more violent evictions and claims through aggressive use of courts.

UK supplier Westbridge Foods is a major customer of a large poultry company that relies on a 9,700-hectare farm in Mato Grosso do Sul state, Brazil, according to a study by London-based environmental group Earthsight and Brazilian journalists.

The farm was built on land known as Takuara, which was illegally evicted for a large corporation some 70 years ago. The farm now mass-produces soybeans and sells them to chicken producers across the country.

Trade records show that Westbridge imported more than 37,000 tonnes of frozen and pickled chicken from poultry giants between 2018 and 2021, equivalent to about a third of the total chicken the company sends to the EU and UK, Earthsight said.

Westbridge owns Valley Foods, a brand owned by Sainsbury’s.

Brazil’s National Truth Commission has defined the deportation and incarceration of indigenous communities in the state as “serious human rights violations”.

Earthsight said the report highlighted how new UK regulations on imports of goods resulting from illegal deforestation should deal with land rights and products such as soybeans and poultry.

As the indigenous peoples fought to reclaim their land, the violence culminated in the murder of their leader, Marcos Veron, in 2003.

In 2011, a Brazilian court found the three shooters guilty of kidnapping, torture and conspiracy to commit crimes related to his death, but acquitted them of murder and attempted murder.

Also, according to a report written with De Olho nos Ruralistas, a group of journalists monitoring agricultural enterprises, Guarani Kaiowa still suffers from a lack of access to traditional land and livelihoods.

“Brazil’s constitution protects indigenous land rights, but a series of governments and judicial systems in favor of strong landowners ignored their claims,” ​​the report’s authors say.

The state of Mato Grosso do Sul is known to have the highest number of murders of indigenous people in Brazil.

The village of Guarani Kaiowa in Guyraroká near Takuara in Mato Grosso do Sul

(Earthsight / De Olho nos Ruralistas)

Earthsight’s head of deforestation research, Rubens Carvalho, said:

“On the contrary, their responses indicate that consumers have a long way to go to be confident that they do not contribute to environmental or social harm abroad.

“These findings reinforce the need for new UK regulations to include strong provisions on indigenous land rights and to prevent imports of commodities related to illegal deforestation to include derivatives and various commodities such as soybeans and chicken.”

A new UK law will ban the import of products containing soy grown on lands cleared through illegal deforestation. It comes into effect in a few years, but it does not directly address human rights violations.

A Sainsbury spokesperson said: “All of our suppliers must meet our stringent ethical and sustainable sourcing standards.

“Westbridge does not supply its own brand chicken in Brazil. We are contacting Valley Foods, which manufactures the branded products we have, on this report.”

An Aldi spokesperson said: “We respect human rights and conduct comprehensive checks to ensure that everyone in the supply chain who makes, grows and supplies our products is treated fairly.

“We take all claims of this kind very seriously and will further investigate the matter with the supplier.”

KFC did not respond. independent‘ requested comment before publication. Iceland did not respond either.

Westbridge Foods did not respond to requests for comment from either side. independent Or Earth Sight.

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