Ranchers blamed for deforestation in Brazil rely on a booming business

Ranchers blamed for deforestation in Brazil

Rio Branco, Brazil — Brazil on Thursday imposed a 60 day ban on land-clearing fires. It follows a global outcry over fires ravaging parts of the Amazon rainforest, most set by farmers and ranchers.

It may be hard to believe that what was once lush rainforest, is now a 2,200 acre cattle ranch managed by Alberto Oliveira Dos Santos. It's hard work, he told CBS News, but in rural Brazil, it's a godsend.

Without education to get a job in any industry, he said ranching is his livelihood, and business is good. Demand, especially from China, has Brazil's beef industry booming. It's the number one exporter in the world, but at a cost.

By some estimates, about 80% of the deforestation in the Amazon has been to make way for cattle ranches. Assuero Veronez, president of the area's Agricultural Federation, is in lockstep with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who wants to open more of the Amazon for business.

He argues that fires are normal during the dry season and that the current outrage around the world is politically motivated. But scientists call that view dangerously misguided. If nothing changes, they said the balance between human activity and protecting the Amazon is rapidly tipping against the rainforest.

Homes of indigenous tribes destroyed as Amazon fires continue to burn