Posts Supporting Anti-Environmental Policy in Brazil are Shared More on Social Media

Lucas Rodriguez Forti, Magno Lima de Oliveira Travassos, Diana Coronel-Bejarano, Diego Fernandes Miranda, David Souza, José Sabino, Judit K. Szabo

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Weakening environmental laws supported by disinformation are currently of concern in Brazil. An example of disinformation is the case of the “firefighter cattle”. Supporters of this idea believe that by consuming organic mass, cattle decrease the risk of fire in natural ecosystems. This statement was cited by a member of the Bolsonaro government in response to the unprecedented 2020 fires in the Pantanal, as well as in support of a new law that enables extensive livestock in protected areas of this biome. By suggesting that grazing benefits the ecosystem, the “firefighter cattle” argument supports the interests of agribusiness. However, it ignores the real costs of livestock production on biodiversity. We analysed the social repercussion of the “firefighter cattle” by analysing public reactions to YouTube, Facebook, and Google News posts. These videos and articles and the responses to them either agreed or disagreed with the “firefighter cattle”. Supportive posts were shared more on social media and triggered more interactions than critical posts. Even though many netizens disagreed with the idea of “firefighter cattle”, it has gone viral, and was used as a tool to strengthen anti-environmental policies. We advocate that government institutions should use resources and guidelines provided by the scientific community to raise awareness. These materials include international reports produced by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). We need to curb pseudoscience and misinformation in political discourse, avoiding misconceptions that threaten natural resources and confuse global society.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalEnvironmental Management
    Early online dateNov 2022
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Nov 2022


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