BMW AND JAGUAR LAND ROVER leather suppliers are linked to illegal deforestation in the territory of one of the world’s most threatened uncontacted tribes, according to an official complaint launched by Survival International.

Two Italian companies, Pasubio and Gruppo Mastrotto, source leather from tanneries that are supplied by cattle ranches guilty of occupying and illegally deforesting the land of uncontacted members of Paraguay’s Ayoreo tribe. These Ayoreo are the last uncontacted Indigenous people in South America outside the Amazon, and the ranches threaten their very existence. BMW and Jaguar Land Rover and many others buy the two companies’ leather to make interiors, seats and steering wheels.

This link is at the heart of a formal complaint filed by Survival International, in agreement with and authorised by contacted Ayoreo people, against Pasubio at Italy’s ‘National Contact Point’ (NCP) for the OECD, on 13 December 2022.

A few weeks ago, Survival sent cease-and-desist letters to both companies urging them to halt these imports. Gruppo Mastrotto has responded by initiating a dialogue with Survival, which is still ongoing, but Pasubio has sent only a brief disclaimer. Survival has therefore, in agreement with and authorised by contacted Ayoreo people, submitted a formal complaint against Pasubio under the OECD’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

The link between the leather used in the car industry and the illegal destruction of the Ayoreo’s forest was first revealed in an investigation by Earthsight. In two reports, Grand Theft Chaco I and Grand Theft Chaco II, Earthsight revealed that almost two-thirds of the hides exported from Paraguay go to Italian companies, principally Pasubio, which depends the automotive industry for more than 90 per cent of its €313 million annual revenue.

The complaint states that Pasubio appears to have violated several principles in the OECD Guidelines, including those on Disclosure of Information (III), Human Rights (IV), Environment (VI) and Consumer Interests (VIII) and demands that the company stops importing hides from tanneries in Paraguay that are responsible for and/or involved in the deforestation of the Ayoreo’s forest.

The head of Survival’s Ayoreo campaign, Teresa Mayo said: “The Paraguayan government has handed over most of the Ayoreo’s ancestral territory to agribusiness companies who are relentlessly clearing the forest: first they cut down the valuable hardwoods, then they set fire to the forest, and finally they introduce livestock onto the cleared land.

“The Ayoreo are witnessing the destruction of their livelihoods, their physical and mental health, and even their lives. But they remain determined to fight for their continued existence, alongside their uncontacted relatives, who are forced to live on the run from bulldozers in oases of forest that are getting smaller and smaller every day.”

Francesca Casella, director of Survival Italy, said today: “Demand for car leather is predicted to increase by more than five per cent per year until 2027. Clients and end-consumers need to be aware of this, and since Italy is the world’s biggest buyer of Paraguayan leather, it has the power and responsibility to intervene by stopping doing business with cattle ranches that operate illegally on Indigenous land with the connivance of corrupt politicians and officials.”

Tagüide Picanerai, an Ayoreo Totobiegosode man, said: “The harmful impact that beef and leather production has is deforestation, and that affects the people living in the area (…). Leather is like a hidden aspect of cattle ranching, it isn’t taken into account as we only talk about beef, but it really does affect the local people a lot. It’s those who produce the cattle and export them and then sell them over there in Europe who benefit, but here it means deforestation and the Ayoreo people suffer.”

* Read: Grand Theft Chaco here.

* Source: Survival International