Photos by Tommaso Galli for Greenpeace
Witnessing a fashion show in Italy, one of the meccas of the industry, isn’t a privilege many of us will experience. We can only imagine what it would entail: beautiful models, incredible clothing, champagne, and photographs of mass deforestation. Wait…what? Outside the renowned Linea Pelle leather trade show in Bologna on Wednesday, Greenpeace U.K. staged its own catwalk-cum-fashion-shoot. The goal? To draw attention to Brazilian leather and its inadvertent role in the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
Attendees to the event came head to head with lithe models wearing organic fibers and recycled materials, all guilt-free alternatives to genuine leather. After preening and peacocking in front of images of the Amazon, the models flipped the boards to reveal the hidden message: “Salvati la pelle,” which can read as “save your skin” or “save your leather,” depending on your interpretation of “pelle’s” double-barreled meaning in Italian.
Cattle ranching is responsible for 80 percent of deforestation in Brazil, says Greenpeace.
Greenpeace held the demonstration in tandem with the release of Broken Promises, a new report that details the Brazilian cattle industry’s ties to illegal deforestation, slave labor, and invasion of indigenous lands. Because cattle ranching is responsible for 80 percent of deforestation in the Amazon, according to the environmental nonprofit, most Brazilian leather likely originates from devastated rainforests.
SLAUGHTERING THE AMAZON
In October 2009, the three largest companies processing meat and tanned leather in Brazil—JBS/Friboi, Minerva, and Marfrig—publicly pledged to boycott cattle from ranches that have deforested or are situated on indigenous lands. In a follow-up investigation just two years later, however, a Greenpeace analysis of trade data from the Amazonian state of Mato Grosso revealed that JBS, the largest of the companies, is still using suppliers who are not honoring the agreement.
At least one leather processer has reneged on a pledge to boycott ranches that have deforested or are situated on indigenous lands.
The report also details the catastrophic repercussions of a revised Forest Code that Brazilian lawmakers are considering. Not only will the revised legislation expand areas allowed for deforestation, it will also weaken the country’s commitment to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions through deforestation by 2020.
Greenpeace recognizes that the fashion industry alone cannot prevent the loss of of Brazil’s most precious resource. The world’s leading apparel manufacturers, however, wield considerable power to make JBS and other companies stick to the commitments they made. Time is of the essence. Once gone, the Amazon is gone forever.