top of page
  • Writer's pictureMariana Monteiro Pillar

Cargo ship: a masked threat

Mariana Monteiro Pillar


The expansion of agriculture and livestock farming was due to the acceleration of human and economic development, which demanded more and more animal-based inputs to meet society's basic needs. To this end, farming is seen as an element of negative transformation of nature, as it is a predatory practice that begins with the cultivation of pastures that occupy the space of natural fields, followed by the reduction of biodiversity which leads to an imbalance in nature (Ribeiro, 2018).

Moving on to the criticisms of this alternative to profitability, the socio-environmental impacts are incalculable, because of the multiplication of herds to satisfy the desires of exporting countries, one of the main needs stemming from trade was the expansion of pasture cultivation. The countryside in its natural state was no longer able to supply the food demands of the animals, and a new method of growing food had to be introduced: grazing.

In this segment, Aldrighi (2022) points out that grazing characterises the extensive model of cattle production, which is to say that the animals are raised in the field, but feed on a pasture introduced into that enclosure to ensure the nutrition of increasingly larger herds. Also, according to data extracted from the author's field study, in 2017, the extensive model reached 96%, which is to say that the majority of the Brazilian herd was raised on pasture, which led to the need for larger areas of land, resulting in higher rates of deforestation.

In the light of the above, we realise that the impacts generated by the export of live cattle occur in a chain, because one effect is associated with another, either directly or indirectly, but they are all interconnected in the animal protein production chain. Another challenge related to the expansion of cattle farming is deforestation. Faced with the need for land, the most financially economical option is to deforest.

Unfortunately, Brazil has high rates of deforestation that affect all regions in an accelerated and continuous manner. Gabriela Mapeli (2023, p. 27) conceptualises deforestation as "the entire process of degrading the native vegetation of a region, as well as the removal of undergrowth". In this sense, deforestation contributes to the devastation of large areas of native vegetation, with major consequences for the environment, including the loss of local biodiversity, the loss of the natural habitat of wild animals and the death and extinction of many species (Mapeli, 2023).

Beyond the visible impacts, there are the invisible problems. Studies that measure the levels of greenhouse gas emissions show that farming generates more gas emissions than all means of transport combined, with 50% of greenhouse gas emissions coming from farming. As stated above, the production of live protein is largely responsible for deforestation and is the main driver of forest destruction, species extinction, soil erosion and ocean dead zones (MELL, 2018).

Notwithstanding the impacts listed above, it is well known that the increase in extensive cattle farming in the country was due to a specific reason: for exporting. Thus, in addition to all the impacts on the environment, it is necessary to understand the impact that exports have on animals in their individuality, as a proven sentient being, which is one that feels the stimuli to which it is consciously subjected.

The brutality that runs through the export route is surreal, beginning with the animals being taken from their birthplaces, the pastures, where they used to live freely, to travel long kilometres in truck vehicles until they reach the ports, where they remain in "quarantine" for a period of approximately 40 to 60 days. They are housed in filthy vessels in the company of thousands of their species. They are then deposited in the holds of ships to begin their cruel journey.

On this subject, Sturaro (2023) emphasises that society cannot imagine the suffering these animals go through until they reach their destination, facing overcrowded stalls, inadequate accommodation and extremely small spaces which leads to dislocations, breakages, psychological stress and often death. Magna Regina (2023), the veterinarian who carried out the judicial inspection of the Nada Ship, the subject of civil action no. 5000325-94, was truthful when she stated in her report the unsanitary and cruel conditions to which the animals are subjected.

Not to mention the impact that exporting live animals has on the oceans, as the tonnes of waste produced along the way are deposited in the sea. In this way, the long-term impact of live cattle exports on the oceans is uncertain. The waste has a high concentration of nitrogen, phosphorus and salt, substances that, when they come into contact with marine biodiversity, cause dead zones, as they degrade reefs and corals. Ribeiro (2018) corroborates the above arguments by stating that:


Dumped into the water, in addition to contaminating it, they will give rise to a process called eutrophication, in which the excess of organic matter favours the proliferation of algae and bacteria that consume a large part of the oxygen in the environment, making it hypoxic (that is, with a low level of oxygen) and therefore unsuitable for other aquatic organisms (RIBEIRO, 2018, p. 25).


As we have seen, animal exploitation is a real threat to the environment and to animals, and although Brazil has important animal law precepts, it even has Article 225, §1, VII, designed to guarantee the fundamental rights of animals, such as "the right to physical and psychological integrity, the right to have their natural behaviour respected, the right to be fed and to have their thirst quenched" (Ataíde Júnior, 2018, p. 50). It is also a signatory of the 1978 UNESCO Universal Declaration on the Rights of Animals.

When it comes to the consumption of food of animal origin, Brazil stands out in many ways, demonstrating that it is an extremely speciesist country that subjugates some species to the detriment of humans. In this context, according to data from the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Services, in 2020 the country broke its record for exporting live animals.

In this regard, Lourenço (2020) reiterates that:


The anthropocentric myopia doesn't allow us to see the life that throbs around us and leaves us complacent in the face of the sad loss that comes from slaughtering, mutilating or subjecting animals to painful and traumatising experiences. Esse é o caso do transporte de animais vivos. AThis is the case with the transport of live animals. The same short-sightedness does not allow us to empathise with the suffering and vulnerability of others. The specific horror of transport ships does not lie in the number of animals they carry across the sea, which is too abstract to be realised by us. The horror lies in the fact that we refuse to put ourselves in the place of the other, of those beings who are exploited, tortured and abused, of claiming that life matters less to animals than it does to us. Economic arguments should not override the recognition of the dignity that each animal life carries within itself (Lourenço, 2020, p. 70).


In this sense, the exportation of live animals brings with it a series of impacts that have been masked by the rural caucus, as they use arguments to emphasise the importance of exports for the country's economy. However, several economists have already stated that the export of live animals leads to more losses than gains. Therefore, taking into account the commands of animal welfare, as well as the rights of Nature, the rights of present and future generations and the rights of animals, the best way to carry out this practice would be with animals that have already been slaughtered, as it would reduce the demand from Middle Eastern countries, the importers, which would consequently reduce cattle production in the country, and as a logical consequence, environmental and animal impacts would be minimised.


ALDRIGHI, Thayná Payão. The negative environmental externalities of beef production in Brazil. Final Coursework. Federal University of Santa Catarina, Socio-Economic Centre, Degree in Economic Sciences, Florianópolis, 2022.

ATAÍDE JÚNIOR, Vicente de Paula. Introduction to Brazilian Environmental Law. Brazilian Journal of Animal Law, v. 13, n. 03, p. 48-76, Sep-Dec 2018.

LOURENÇO, Daniel Braga. The "realisable minimum" platform and Wise's "lines". Revista Brasileira de Direito Animal, Salvador, ano 2, nº 2, p. 207-224, jan - jun, 2007. Available at: article/view/10303. Accessed on 17 July 23.

MAGDA, Regina. Veterinarian (CRM 7583). Technical Inspection Report requested by the Federal Court with a view to providing input for the analysis of Public Civil Action No. 5000325- 94.2017.4.03.6135, pending before the 25th Federal Civil Court of São Paulo, 02 February 2018. Accessed on 23 July 23.

MAPELI, Gabriel Silveira. Environmental barriers to Brazilian meat exports. Course Conclusion Programme. Federal University of Uberlândia, Socio-Economic Centre, Degree in Economic Sciences, Uberlândia, 2023.

RIBEIRO, Raquel. Eating the Planet: Environmental Impacts of Raising and Consuming Animals. 3. ed. Brazilian Vegetarian Society, 2018.

STURARO, George. Exporting live animals: the path to banning this practice. Mercy For Animals, 2023.

7 views0 comments


bottom of page