A group representing indigenous people living in the Amazon in Brazil and Colombia filed suit in France Wednesday against supermarket chain Casino for allegedly selling beef associated with land-grabbing and deforestation.
The grouping of 11 indigenous associations, backed by French and American NGOs, is seeking compensation of about 3.1 million euros ($3.7 million) from the French retail group for "damages done to their customary lands and the impact on their livelihoods," according to a press statement.
The lawsuit alleges systemic violations of human rights and environmental laws in Casino's supply chains in Brazil and Colombia.
"According to evidence compiled and analyzed by the Center for Climate Crime Analysis for this case, Groupe Casino regularly bought beef from three slaughterhouses owned by JBS," a meatpacking company accused of contributing to deforestation, it said.
"The three slaughterhouses sourced cattle from 592 suppliers responsible for at least 50,000 hectares of deforestation between 2008 and 2020," said the statement.
"The deforested area is five times the size of Paris."
The claimants also alleged violations of indigenous rights, citing one case in which tribal lands were invaded and used by cattle farms supplying beef to Casino subsidiary Pao de Acucar.
The suit was filed under a 2017 French due diligence law to hold companies responsible for environmental and other violations.
"The demand for beef by Casino and Pao de Acucar brings deforestation and land-grabbing and violence, and the murder of indigenous leaders when they choose to resist," the statement quoted Luiz Eloy Terena, a leader of Brazil's Terena people, as saying.
"With this lawsuit, we seek to hold the company accountable for the consequences of these impacts and to bring some relief to the reality confronted by our indigenous peoples on their lands."
The statement said cattle ranching was the main driver of deforestation in South America, particularly in Brazil.
In 2020 alone, 8,426 square kilometers of the Brazilian Amazon was lost to deforestation, according to official figures, and 1,590 square kilometers of forest in Colombia.
"In 2021, in a world where we can technically trace and monitor everything, an international group called Casino... fails to eliminate deforestation from all its supply chain. That's unacceptable!" said Boris Patentreger of the NGO Envol Vert.
The Casino group has existed since 1898 and has more than 11,000 stores in France, Brazil and Colombia.
In 2020, Latin America accounted for 46 percent of the company’s sales, according to its official website.
Casino would not comment on the court action but told AFP it was "rigorous" in controlling the origins of its meat.
The suit was filed with a court in Saint-Etienne in southeast France, where Casino is headquartered.