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KFC frying the Amazon as violence erupts

Feature story - 18 May, 2006
We don’t think the Amazon should be cut down for chicken feed. And from Brazil to Europe, our activists have faced violence and arrest to protest this environmental crime.

KFC is implicated in Amazon destruction

Our investigative report, 'Eating up the Amazon' showed how soya beans grown in the Amazon were going into many fast-food items in Europe.

Among them, soy grown by clearing the Amazon is going into the making of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). And some people don’t want us to do anything about that.

Activists attacked, arrested:
Violence erupted at an illegal soy export facility in the Amazon as employees and associates of Cargill, owner and operator of the port, targeted Greenpeace activists who were protesting the continued destruction of the Amazon rainforest for growing soy. Despite the Cargill port being built in violation of Brazilian law, it continues to operate. Soy exported from this port go to many parts of the world including Europe where it is used to feed animals destined to be fried-up in fast food outlets like KFC.  Activists in Europe have shut down Cargill plants in France and the UK in solidarity with their Brazilian colleagues.

Amazon violence

Read more about the violence
View photos of the Greenpeace action
View the videos from the protest -video1, video2
(videos require the windows or winamp media player)

Here’s a report from Gavin Edwards, our international forest campaigner, about his arrival in Brazil:

I've been in the Amazon almost a week now and from the moment I arrived I stepped into a very polarized battle over the future of the Amazon. My first indication of the tension was a bumper sticker on a truck outside the airport with the words 'Fora Greenpeace', meaning 'Greenpeace Out'. Many more of these stickers were on trucks around the town of Santarem. It turns out that by showing this sticker on your car or truck, you receive a discount on petrol at a local gas station.

An editorial in the local newspaper Journal de Santarem was also quite damning of Greenpeace, attempting to link us to everything from hunger to abortion, but of course failed to discuss the real issue, the ongoing and rampant deforestation and unsustainable development in the Amazon.

Our first protest involved simply parachuting an activist into a soy field with a message written on the parachute, and even this was enough to bring out a small group of angry farmers -- the parachutist had a narrow escape. Our next attempt to protest at the forest destruction over the weekend was to have 80 people in a deforested area to make a human banner, arranging the people's bodies to spell out the protest message. This activity was cancelled due to the strong possibility of violence from the farmers.

KFC banner

Undeterred by the violence directed towards us, a team of activists on boats projected a video on soy and deforestation in front of the town of Santarem on Saturday night. Many of the local gauchos are actually farmers from the south of Brazil who have recently moved to Santarem in pursuit of land grabbing and profits from deforestation and farming.  Their reaction was swift.

Within a few minutes a mob assembled and began firing fireworks at our volunteers. They assaulted one of our photographers, and the photographer of a local newspaper as well. This time it seems the local hooligans (who are a small minority) went too far, and the mood in Santarem has swung against them. The subsequent editorial in the Gazeta de Santarem is quite different from earlier criticisms. It deplores the use of violence by the farmers, questions why the gauchos are being violent towards Greenpeace, and wonders if the gauchos will next turn on the people of Santarem with their tactics of fear and intimidation.

The Gazeta de Santarem has front-page headlines and photos of the soy producers attacking the photographer, and a quote from one soy producer saying that Santarem is only full of Indians and lazy people. Now the bumper stickers on trucks seem to be fewer and fewer. The tide may well be turning against the soy producers.

We're keeping up the pressure on the big soy producers like Cargill over the next few days, including unfurling a protest banner in a deforested area today with the words 'Kentucky Fried Chicken – Amazon Criminal'.

We have more activities planned in the Amazon, and we're sure those with an economic interest in forest destruction will continue with their violent tactics. For now however, it seems that peace is beginning to win over violence in Santarem, and it looks like there is a real chance that the Amazon may remain mostly green, if our supporters keep up the pressure.