Media Releases - 14 June 2024

Cattle Australia proposes to let the bulldozers rip, leading environment groups say

Today, beef industry group, Cattle Australia, released its Land Management Commitment Information Paper for consultation. The paper proposes various options for consultation on an industry-wide response to increasing demand for deforestation-free products, by allowing the destruction of threatened species habitat through creating enormous exemptions for agriculture.

The paper advocates for regenerated forest up to 34 years old to be excluded from the definition of deforestation, and attempts to take advantage of ‘agricultural land use’ loopholes. This exemption would mean forests in the areas where most of Australia’s deforestation is occurring, including land for grazing, would be exempt from deforestation commitments.

126 million hectares of forest is located on grazing land in Australia, an area over twice the size of France. Cattle Australia’s proposed loopholes would leave 126 million hectares of forests at risk of being bulldozed while claiming deforestation-free status.

In response to Cattle Australia, leading environment groups, Wilderness Society, Greenpeace Australia Pacific and Australian Conservation Foundation have released their joint policy guidance for businesses in the beef supply chain—from supermarkets to banks—to ensure beef is deforestation-free.

The policy recommends companies in beef value chains commit to eliminate deforestation by December 2025, through adopting and adhering to international best practice deforestation-free targets, rather than looking for opportunities to self-regulate.

Australia is recognised as a global deforestation hotspot. A major driver of deforestation in Australia is the conversion of forests and bushland to expand pastures for beef cattle. Deforestation is putting threatened species–such as the koala—on the fast track to extinction and risking precious ecosystems—including the Great Barrier Reef.

Hannah Schuch, Queensland Campaigns Manager for the Wilderness Society, said: “The severe impacts of deforestation in native forests and bushlands are mounting by the day—driving Australia’s extinction crisis. The bulldozing is not going unnoticed, and markets domestically and abroad are increasingly demanding deforestation-free beef.

Cattle Australia’s blatant attempt to create deforestation loopholes will not get the beef industry any closer to solving its deforestation problem. Deforestation-free commitments must align with internationally recognised, robust initiatives. Financiers, international markets and consumers will see through this attempt to continue business as usual.

“Beef retailers–like Coles and Woolworths–have a social and financial responsibility to align their companies’ deforestation-free targets with international best practice and nothing less. They must not be fooled by Cattle Australia’s marketing exercise to continue bulldozing koala habitat.”

Nathaniel Pelle, Business and Nature Lead at the Australian Conservation Foundation, said:
“Rather than take up the opportunity to halt and reverse nature destruction in the industry and supply a growing global demand for deforestation-free beef, Cattle Australia’s policy is little better than business as usual.

“A minority of producers engaged in broadscale deforestation threaten biodiversity and represent a business risk for responsible cattle graziers who take land stewardship seriously.

“Continuing to bulldoze native forests and woodlands and trying to label it ‘deforestation-free’ is nothing but greenwashing, plain and simple, and banks and supermarkets should not buy into it.”

Gemma Plesman, Senior Campaigner from Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said:
"Cattle Australia's proposal is a complete farce and goes against the best practice Accountability Framework Initiative. They are specifically proposing that bulldozing important regenerated forest up to 34 years old is somehow not classed as deforestation. It's nonsensical. These forests can still provide homes to threatened species including koalas and should be protected to allow the recovery of wildlife already obliterated by the beef industry.”

“This is just yet another brazen attempt to deny deforestation is a problem and would create a loophole big enough to drive a bulldozer through, literally. If this definition is adopted our unique wildlife, including endangered koalas, will continue to be slaughtered by bulldozers."

"Australia's biggest beef buyers like McDonald's, Woolworths, Coles and Aldi should be concerned that Cattle Australia's proposed framework falls well short of international best practice and will not be supported by the NGO sector as it stands. It's about time these companies showed leadership and intervened to stop Australia's deforestation crisis."


For interviews with Hannah Schuch, please contact Rhiannon Cunningham, media adviser for the Wilderness Society on [email protected] or 0419 992 760