Earlier this week, the Brazilian government captured and removed 3,100 cows grazing in a nature reserve in the Amazon. The “raid”, if it can be called that, was designed as a warning to other ranchers grazing their cattle on what was once rainforest but has been illegally deforested. Perhaps 60,000 cattle have this “status” in the Amazon (outlaw, from now on), although the number could be higher since, according to a recent report from Friends of the Earth-Brazilian Amazon, nearly 75 million cattle are in the Amazon. Environmentalists in Brazil praised the government’s action, but warned that if it was a one-time thing, a stunt of sorts, it wouldn’t dissuade cattle operators lured into the rainforest by cheap land, often found (illegally) in indigenous reserves or protected areas.
Some such cattle are, reportedly, being moved out to avoid any future government seizure plans (another 10,000 cattle are slated for removal). As to the fate of the Amazon rainforest over the longer-tern: it’s uncertain. Rates of clearing aren’t as high as they were at their peak in 2004, but have been accelerating in recent months, stirring unease within the government and alarm elsewhere. The fate of the legally “rustled” cattle? Well, more certain. They’ll be auctioned, with proceeds going to a government nutrition program for poor Brazilians, health care for indigenous groups and to fund future cattle-out-of-illegally-deforested-Amazon-removal efforts.