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Blog Post - September 2021

Indigenous People’s Fight Against Brazil’s Agricultural Industry

Mato Grosso is the third largest state in Brazil, with a land area rivaling the size of Venezuela. The state contains some of the most diverse biomes in the world, to include 316,000 square kilometers of rainforest and 207,000 square kilometers of cerrado. Mato Grosso is also home to over thirty Indigenous tribes. Many of these tribes (such as the Kīsêdjê) are the inhabitants of the otherwise untouched natural biomes that remain in Mato Grosso.

These Indigenous tribes (and the natural biomes that they protect) are facing severe threats from Brazil’s agricultural industries. According to satellite imagery analysis conducted by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the state of Mato Grosso has lost upwards of 10% of its natural habitats since 2002.

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Upon examining the INPE’s findings for agricultural land growth, it becomes clear that livestock, poultry and crop production are the driving factors behind this loss of natural lands and Indigenous territory. Data: INPE

What happens to these products?

A significant amount of Brazil’s livestock production is exported. Brazil is the world’s largest beef producer, accounting for 20% of global beef exports annually (a figure which the USDA projects will climb to 23% by 2028).


Many of Brazil’s non-livestock exports end up feeding back into livestock production in other parts of the world. An estimated 16% of the world’s exported corn comes from Brazil, 38% of which is used as livestock feed. Similarly, Brazil’s soy makes up 37% of global exports, with 4 out of 5 bushels ending up as feed.


What does the future look like?


The situation looks uncertain at this time. As we’ve previously written, President Jair Bolsonaro has been nothing short of hostile towards Indigenous peoples and the preservation of their lands. Bolsonoro has openly and repeatedly stated his opinion that Indigenous territories are obstacles to mining and agricultural development.


Meanwhile, the recent rejection of Bill PL 490/2007 gives cause for cautious optimism. Had the bill been approved, it would have dramatically limited the ability of Indigenous tribes to protect their lands against industrial development. 


This act by Brazil’s lawmakers is certainly a step in the right direction. However, the fact that a draft of PL 490/2007 was approved nearly fifteen years after its original introduction proves that Brazil’s agro-lobby is a persistent threat to Indigenous territories. This threat paired with the looming possibility of Bolsonaro’s reelection in 2022 means that Indigenous territories will remain at-risk for the foreseeable future.


What can you do?


Considering the reach of Brazil’s agricultural exports, an effective way to make an impact is to simply reduce meat consumption. Whether you want to go fully vegetarian or try a hybrid approach like weekday vegetarianism, any reduction in consumption has a good chance of reducing demand in habitat-eroding supply chains.


Should you choose to consume livestock products, consider taking some time to research the supply chain behind the products you’re purchasing. Websites like offer great resources to help consumers research companies and steer clear of products that come at the expense of Indigenous territories and natural habitats.

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