Greenpeace activists descended on Tesco's Botley branch to stage a protest against meat and its links to deforestation.

The group are campaigning for the supermarket chain to cut ties with the industrial meat industry, alleging that Tesco is playing a role in deforestation caused by fires started to clear areas of the Amazon for cattle and soya plantations.

Greenpeace Oxfordshire volunteers held a sign that said ‘Tesco meat = deforestation’ outside the supermarket’s Botley branch in West Way Square, as part of an escalating nationwide protest before the supermarket chain’s annual general meeting. 

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During May and June, Greenpeace volunteers have stencilled messages outside more than 270 UK stores. The group say that more stores will be targeted with a series of 'peaceful direct actions' over the coming months.

People arriving at Tesco’s annual meeting were greeted by activists holding giant letters spanning ten metres, which spelled out the words ‘FOREST CRIME’ at Tesco’s Welwyn Garden City headquarters. 

Greenpeace volunteer Julia Spragg from Oxford said: “When you buy a chicken from the Tesco Express on West Way Square in Botley, it won’t mention the forest crime that took place to produce it. Tesco’s chicken supplier is owned by a company notorious for destroying the Amazon rainforest. And Tesco’s chicken is reared on soya that’s driving deforestation and fires across Brazil. 

“Indigenous peoples are facing an assault on their rights as forests like the Amazon are being slashed and deliberately burned for industrial meat production. It’s killing wildlife, the risk of future pandemics is increasing and it’s playing havoc with the climate. 

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“Ten thousand shoppers have sent personal pleas for Tesco to drop forest destroyers from its supply chain - many threatening a boycott if it doesn’t. Tesco can’t afford to ignore them and we won’t stop campaigning until Tesco stops greenwashing and takes action.”

However, Tesco has denied much of what Greenpeace claims and said that while several leading UK retailers continue to sell Brazilian beef, Tesco stopped selling it in early 2018 due to concerns over deforestation. 

The supermarket chain also said that it called on the UK Government to mandate food companies to introduce effective due diligence across supply chains to make sure the food sold in the UK is deforestation-free.

A Tesco spokesperson said: “We require all our suppliers to meet our environmental and zero deforestation standards. We are fully committed to playing our part in tackling deforestation and met our 2020 industry-wide target of certified ‘zero net deforestation’ for our own soy sourcing a year early.

“We recognise there is more to do to ensure deforestation is prevented across the sector, which is why we’ve set an additional industry-leading target for the soy we use in the UK to be from entire areas that are verified deforestation-free by 2025.” 

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