Production of collagen from Brazilian cattle is contributing to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and dispossession of Indigenous groups living there, an [extraordinary —Ed.]  investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the Guardian, ITV, and O Joio e O Trigo reveals.

Makers of the protein product, proponents of which claim slows some physical changes associated with aging, say it is merely derived from cattle “by-products” that would be otherwise discarded. That claim is belied, however, by the tight margins of the meat industry in which every sellable part of the animal is integral to the business model and products made from cattle hide (collagen and leather) are by far the most valuable non-meat parts of the cow. The cattle industry accounts for 80% of all Brazilian Amazon forest loss.

Collagen firms also use the complexity of bovine supply chains to market their products as not being linked to deforestation while also obfuscating the actual origins of their products, origins Brazilian federal prosecutor Ricardo Negrini says they do have the ability to track.

“No cattle ranching expansion in the Amazon can take place without violence,” said Bruno Malheiro, a geographer and professor at the Federal University of Southern and Southeastern Pará. That violence was enabled, if not encouraged, under the Bolsonaro government and is entrapping the Indigenous communities who rely on — and are the best managers of — the rainforest into ever-constricting “islands” surrounded by ranchland. The Gavião people live “surrounded, suffocated” in one such island in Mãe Maria Indigenous Territory, Pará, their leader Kátia Silene Akrãtikatêjê said. “[The farmers] destroy what is theirs, and invade what is ours.” (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, The Guardian, ITV, O Joio e O Trigo)