Vegetarians International Voice for Animals

Millions of Amazon animals die to satisfy Europe's demand for meat

Release date: 
Monday, September 15, 2008

EATING meat in the UK contributes to the death of animals in the Amazon Rainforest " many of them endangered, according to a new campaign being promoted this month (September).

Animal group Viva! have found millions of animals such as monkeys, tapirs, parrots and toucans are driven from their homes " as 78 million acres of rainforest continue to be stripped bare each year to make way for cattle ranching and soya production, most of which is fed to farmed animals. Countless numbers of smaller mammals, reptiles and insects are also added to the death toll.

As part of Veggie Month 2008, Viva! are aiming to expose the role the meat and dairy industries in Europe play in Loss of Biodiversity in countries such as Peru, Equador, Bolivia and Brazil. It is possibly the first time the link has been made " that by going vegetarian or vegan, you can save the lives of wild animals, as well as 11,047 farmed animals in a life time, they claim.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (ICUN) have published a report recently that shockingly shows that 50 per cent of primates are in danger of extinction (http://cms.iucn.org/media/releases/index.cfm'uNewsID=1391).

Every year, it is estimated that around 250,000 primates including howler monkeys, marmosets and tamarins are subjected to habitat fragmentation , which is often a cause of species becoming threatened or endangered. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, extensive deforestation in Ecuador has been a major cause of a 30 per cent decline in the last three generations of spider monkeys . The existence of viable habitat is essential to the survival of these animals and the colourful birds that live in the forest canopies with them. Eight hundred and forty four thousand birds, such as macaws and toucans are left displaced each year .

Conservation studies of the vulnerable tapir in the Brazilian Rainforest only recorded on average one animal per square mile in 2002. Under the dark cloud of forest clearance, approximately 473,482 of these creatures are put in danger every year .

The tree-dwelling and slow moving sloth, will this year also decline considerably if this wholesale pattern of devastation is allowed to continue .
Beautiful creatures, including jaguars , spectacled bears and river dolphins have been so badly affected by deforestation, hunting and other catastrophic human intervention, they are only found in small populations in certain areas of the Amazon.

Campaigns Manager, Justin Kerswell, explains the organisation's message: "The idea that eating a beef burger in Britain contributes to the deaths of monkeys might seem absurd. However, it is an uncomfortable, but unavoidable, fact that the meat and dairy industries are the number one cause of loss of biodiversity around the world " and the number one cause of deforestation in the Amazon. We import millions of tons of soya into Europe every year from land cleared in the Amazonian rainforest. The vast majority of it goes towards feeding our farmed animals, not feeding people. For every square mile of land decimated by slash and burn, monkeys, jaguars, toucans, and the whole rich tapestry of life in the rainforest are destroyed. Our rampant desire for meat and dairy means we are literally eating our way through the rainforest from thousands of miles away.'

'It is hypocritical for us to wring our hands and blame developing countries for destruction of biodiversity, when it is our Western diet that is driving this very destruction. By cutting out meat and dairy, not only will we be healthier and save the lives of farmed animals here, we will also help ensure the secure future of animals in the wild and biodiversity for generations to come.'

FACTS
' Loss of Biodiversity describes the loss and extinction of plants and animals from their natural ecosystem.
' Of cleared land in the Amazon, 70 per cent is grazed by cattle and the other 30 per cent grows soya fodder .
' Research has found around 80 per cent of processed meat imported into Europe came from cattle raised in areas of the Brazilian Rainforest cleared for farming, for example .
' Europe imports 18 million tons of soya every year for livestock feed and so billions of chicken nuggets, burgers, bacon rashers or Turkey Twizzlers can claim a direct hand in rainforest destruction .
' A staggering 80 per cent of the world's soya crop is used to feed farmed animals .
' The primary cause of Loss of Biodiversity in the Amazon is cattle ranching and growing soya fodder and the scale is breathtaking. Between August 2003 and August 2004, 700,000 hectares of tropical forest were destroyed in Brazil alone.
' A typical four square mile patch of rainforest contains as many as 1,500 flowering plants, 750 species of trees, 400 species of birds and 150 species of butterflies .
Thousands of animals are subjected to suffering and death to satisfy the West's desire for meat and dairy. For Veggie Month, Viva! are calling on consumers to make the link and think about saving wild animals and farmed animals, by going vegetarian or vegan.
Viva! has over 35,000 supporters, many of whom will be taking time out this September to take part in Veggie Month events around the country, including hosting stalls which aim to offer people all the information they need about going vegetarian or vegan. Their message is powerful " every single person who decides to ditch meat is helping to save the lives of thousands of animals, both farmed and in forests threatened with degradation.
For more information about Viva and Veggie Month 2008, visit www.viva.org.uk/veggiemonth or call 0117 944 1000 to order a free Go Veggie pack.

ENDS

For more information about this media release, please contact press officer Helen Rossiter by emailing press@viva.org.uk or by calling 0117 944 1000, or Justin Kerswell by emailing justin@viva.org or by calling the same number.

Notes to Editors

Vegetarianism and veganism are growing fast in the UK (with the latest survey showing that around six million people in the UK now call themselves vegetarian " and there are now 10 times as many vegans as there were even a decade ago). This means that fewer animals are facing the horrors of modern farming and the barbarity of the slaughterhouse. Government figures show that 9,237,000 fewer animals were killed in the UK in 2007 compared to 2006. The annual drop in slaughter shows that five million fewer chickens were killed in Britain, two million fewer turkeys and two million fewer ducks. Even taking into account all imports, exports and domestic production, poultry meat consumption in the UK fell by 117,000 tons (a huge reduction of seven per cent). Pig meat consumption fell by 27,000 tons (a reduction of six per cent).
Viva! is an international animal campaigning group based in Bristol, also with offices in Poland. It carries out undercover investigations to expose the abuse of factory farmed animals and its successes include getting foie-gras removed from menus in dozens of restaurants across the country; the dumping of all "exotic' meats such as kangaroo and crocodile by UK supermarkets; ending the debeaking of UK ducks; slashing the export of Polish "meat' horses to the EU and persuading a US supermarket chain to entirely rewrite its animal welfare codes. Viva!'s most recent success was to persuade supermarket chain Lidl to drop hare meat from its stores " and being instrumental in Waitrose's decision to become the first UK supermarket to allow ducks raised for meat access to water for swimming. Visit www.viva.org.uk.

Appendix

78 million acres of rainforest cleared each year (footnote 2) = 315,654.80 km2

Animals per mile' in the Amazon:

Howler monkeys
Reference: IUCN Red List of Endangered Species

Population density of howler monkeys per km' = 0.8/km2
=252,524 could be displaced each year

Birds
37.01/10km2
Reference: Journal of Tropical Ecology (2007), 23: 653-662 Cambridge University Press
= 3.701/km2
= 1,168,238 could be displaced each year

Marmosets/tamarins

Smaller bodied primates (which includes these species of monkey) 0.46/km2)
4.6/10km2
=0.46/km2
=145,201 could be displaced each year

Tapirs
1.5/km2
Reference: IUCN Red List of Endangered Species
= 473,482 could be displaced each year

Totals 2,039,445 animals listed above are affected each year as 315,654.80 km2 of rainforest are cleared. Added to this figure will be billions of other small mammals, reptiles and insects.