Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Why we have a beef with capitalism…

Written by: Alan Jackson on 12 June 2024


(Above: Meat Industry Employees Union, 2007 Queensland Labour Day March. Photo by  David Jackmanson is licensed under CC BY 2.0.)

Do you remember the last time you saw the iridescent wings of a Christmas beetle bring in the summer? As much as I try to conjure the image or even the thought of the last time, I fall flat. In the younger years of my life, I remember them flying into my house in abundance. There were so many it was a normalised but appreciated event. 

Now their abundance has turned into its opposite, now I no longer see these harbingers of the summertime. What is the cause of this? Why is it that these beautiful, fluorescent scarabs have stopped showing? 

There’s a multitude of reasons with one root cause being the catalyst. What is this mysterious big bad? Capitalism! More particularly Capitalism and its destructive effects on nature and the exploitative agriculture practises it promotes in its procurement of profit. 

What other social, political and environmental effects does this haemorrhaging cause? 

What is one of the main drivers of deforestation in Australia? 

Looking through a report by Greenpeace, we will see that one of the worst contributors is cattle. Is this to say that cows are prancing on their cloven hooves holding our country at gunpoint? Absolutely not, that would be ridiculous. Although they are ‘cows’, the forces responsible are the multibillionaires and monopolies running this country to ruin for profit. 

Whether this is a conscious decision is irrelevant. The mere fact that they operate and exist in a Capitalist system forces them to exploit both land and people alike. 

Look at the main finds from the Greenpeace report. Some key findings from the get-go are “Australia… is the second largest beef exporter in the world behind Brazil. Beef cattle farming covers about 50% of Australia’s landmass, which explains the disproportionate impact of the industry on Australia’s forests and natural ecosystems.” (1.) 

In addition, “Approximately 30% of Australian beef is consumed domestically”. (2.) 

The report also tells us what companies are the main contributors. Those companies being Retailers – Aldi, Coles, Hungry Jacks, McDonalds, Metcash, Woolworths and Processors - JBS, Teys, Tyson and ComGroup Supplies. 

Those that are foreign multinationals, or tied to foreign capital, include:
Aldi -German
McDonalds – US
JBS – Brazilian (3.)
Tyson- US (4.)
Hungry Jacks – Australian/US (5.)
Teys – Australian/US (6.)

Startlingly put, Australia is undergoing a sustained, mostly hidden deforestation crisis of a globally concerning scale. WWF names eastern Australia among 24 global deforestation fronts, alongside places like the Amazon, the Congo and Borneo. This is because currently an MCG-sized area of forest and bushland is bulldozed every two minutes. This is killing tens of millions of native animals each year, while harming the land, polluting rivers and damaging the Great Barrier Reef. Australian deforestation also contributes considerably to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.” (7.) 

Many operations are centred in Queensland, the state I am from, that faces terrible bushfires yearly with one of the recent most devastating being the fires earlier this year and the bushfires of the 2019-20 black summer. For more see Vanguard Article – ‘For a United Front Against Fossil Fuels and Feral Species.’ (November 2023). 

The last devastating finding I’ll add is “This deforestation is occurring without state or Federal Government controls. In Queensland this is largely, but not exclusively, due to a loophole in the Vegetation Management Act 1999 that makes large areas of land previously cleared as exempt “Category X” land, even if the forest has regenerated to a healthy state and is home to threatened species. Meanwhile researchers have demonstrated that over the course of nearly 20 years the Federal Government has only assessed less than 10% of all deforestation under the national environment law.” (8.) 

Our reliance on the cattle industry results in us producing far more beef than needed for self-sustainability and leads to an overconsumption of beef socially pushed as a result. This puts us into the upper echelons of worldwide heart diseases, cardiac arrests and obesity worldwide. 

With our reliance on the cattle industry the myth of the Australian small farmer is invoked, the masses are appealed to in order to create a fake caricature of a true-blue Aussie farmer struggling on their farm instead of the reality of Corporations paying Migrants peanuts for labour due to their easily exploitable circumstance. 

A recent case was the horrible mistreatment of Chinese meatworkers in Australia’s Visa factories with one specific worker in mind bearing the scars, Wang. “The abattoir clock had ticked into overtime when Chinese meatworker Wang pressed his foot on a button to lower a platform to better cut into a cow carcass. Instead of gliding down, the platform shuddered to a stop and caused a tank of near-boiling water to spill over him. The next day, Wang turned up for work as usual: he did not want to disappoint his employer because soon he would become eligible for permanent residency in Australia. Months later, though, his body still in pain from the workplace accident, Wang found himself without a job anyway, his hope of a better life in Australia in ruins.” (9.) 

If you’re hoping for a happy ending there is none. “Wang is now back in China but is keen to speak out about his experience at Teys Australia’s Biloela abattoir in Queensland. He wants to tell Australians how vulnerable the migrant workers are who come to Australia to do jobs the rest of us shun.” (6.) Wang goes on to say “If you are Australian local people, you don’t have to worry about this. You have equal position with the factory like anyone else. We are poor people. We have no power when we talk with factory.” (10.) Links for more stories on the Migrant Workers plight for the right to work safely in Australia can be found below. (11.)

What stopped the Christmas Beetles? Insecticides, more particularly Imidacloprid and other terrible toxins known to cause ‘Insect Armageddon’ used to protect cotton. Who would’ve thought, inextricably linked to our terrible cattle practices are our cotton practices and with that our agricultural and industrial practices as well. 

This all comes down to Capitalism and its need for profit. With this need for profit, it will put all else before profit even the very thing that is making them profit whether they know it or not. 

Cattle can’t graze a land that is destroyed. The capitalists don’t care. Capitalists only think of profit in the quickest way possible. There is no time to grow trees that our children will see prosper under capitalism. We fell those trees so we can be comfortable, and our children can figure it out for themselves. This is not right. What is needed in Australia is the defeat of Capitalism and Imperialist domination. Economic freedom, self-sustainability, independence and Socialism is the only way we can be free of this turmoil. 


Sources – 
(1.)  Greenpeace Australia – Deforestation Crises on Their Watch 2024 (Page 8)
(2.) ibid
(3.) JBS is the Australian subsidiary of JBS S.A., a Brazilian company that is the largest meat processing enterprise in the world. The company has been regularly criticised for sourcing meat from farms that contribute to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. JBS was initially established as a slaughtering business by José Batista Sobrinho, a rancher in Anápolis, Brazil, in 1953. His sons Joesley Batista and Wesley Batista share a controlling 42% stake in JBS through J&F Investimentos which, in 2017, agreed to pay US$3.2 billion in fines, for leniency from the Brazilian government "over 25 years after admitting to giving roughly $150 million—mostly in bribes—to Brazilian politicians. The Batista brothers escaped jail as part of the deal. In May 2021, it temporarily stood down 7000 Australian workers and up to 3,000 workers in Canada and the United States while it dealt with a cyber attack, eventually paying a ransom of $US11 million in Bitcoin.
In 2022, the ABC revealed how financial support from the Brazilian government, obtained as a result of bribery and corruption, had enabled JBS to purchase Australian Meat Holdings, the country's biggest beef processor, in 2007, and the following year to purchase Tasman Group, which owned abattoirs in Tasmania and Victoria plus a feedlot in NSW. The ABC said “if you buy Primo ham, Huon salmon, McDonald's burgers or meat from Coles, Woolworths or Aldi, you're likely eating JBS products.”
JBS Australia poor record on workers’ safety: Australia: Meat company JBS repeatedly fails to protect workers from injuries; convicted at least six times over serious safety breaches - Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (business-humanrights.org)
(4.) Tyson Foods, Inc. is an American multinational corporation based in Springdale, Arkansas that operates in the food industry. The company is the world's second-largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork after JBS S.A. Tyson Foods has been involved in a number of controversies related to the environment, animal welfare, and the welfare of their own employees. It has paid hundreds of millions of dollars to US competitors to settle price-fixing claims against it.
(5.) Hungry Jack’s is an Australian fast food franchise of the US Burger King Corporation. When Burger King tried to open up in Australia, it found that its name was already registered to a takeaway outlet in Adelaide, so Canadian-Australian businessman Jack Cowan, who had introduced KFC to Australia, entered a franchising arrangement with Burger King to operate their business under his name.
(6.) Originally established by four Teys brothers – all butchers – in Brisbane, it has since 2011 been in a 50-50 partnership with Cargill, the largest privately held company in the United States in terms of revenue.
(7.) (Ibid Page 9)
(8.) Ibid. (Page 6)
(9.) Ibid (page 6)



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