A number of meat processors in Brazil have been found to have bought cattle from ranches that exploit 'slave labour', according to international media reports.

According to international news agency Reuters, inspections had shown that six processors - including JBS, one of the world's largest meat processors - had bought cattle from farms that use forced labour.

According to Reporter Brasil, an anti-slavery and human rights group in the country, JBS bought cattle from two such ranches.

Quoted in Reuters, JBS said that it ceased working with those farms when it became apparent that forced labour was being used there, but suggested that it wouldn't cease dealing with farms that had such allegations against them, unless the allegations were proved through an official process.

Ranches that are found to be using this type of labour cannot receive state support and have restrictions placed on their commercial activities. Private commercial banks and international buyers also use this "dirty list" when dealing with them.

Mercosur deal

The questionable status of the type of labour used on some Brazilian ranches has been one of many issues that have arisen in relation to the EU-Mercosur trade agreement.

The trade agreement struck between the EU and Mercosur has suffered a number of blow in recent months – but the threat has not gone away, one Irish MEP warned.

Under the trade deal, struck in 2019 between the EU and the Mercosur bloc of South American countries – Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay – a quota at preferential rates of 99,000t of beef was agreed.

Speaking to AgriLand, Sinn Féin Midlands-North West MEP Chris MacManus said: "I’m relatively positive about our chances on beating this terrible deal.

"Large countries like France, and Angela Merkel in Germany, have recently expressed their doubts about how viable it is to continue to turn a blind eye to the destruction of the rainforest as a result of Brazil ramping up production to make full use of the Mercosur deal," he added.

MacManus argued that there are "pointers that the deal is near the verge of collapse".