HomeNewsBrazilian Authorities Clamp Down on Cattle Theft

Brazilian Authorities Clamp Down on Cattle Theft


Brazil has launched one of its largest operations against cattle rustling, revealing how thieves swindle ranchers, steal thousands of animals and resell them across the country.

According to media, police in Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul dismantle a criminal organization that stole about 12,000 head of cattle and then resold them as far as the northern state of Tocantins, 2,600 kilometers away, according to media reports.

The police first learned of the thefts after a complaint lodged by around 70 ranchers, who were allegedly tricked into handing over their cattle for free. Citing police sources, RBS TV revealed the suspects collected cattle from the ranchers and paid them in post-dated checks connected to empty bank accounts.

SEE ALSO: Uruguay Cracking Down on Cattle Rustling from Brazil

Once collected, the animals were moved in trucks to the state’s central provinces of Formigueiro and Caçapava do Sul. From there, they were sold to farmers in other states. In total, police estimate the operation resulted in financial losses of up to 30 million reais (just under $5.8 million) for the rancher.

One rancher in Formigueiro told RBS TV that he handed over 542 cattle to one of the suspects but never received the agreed payment of some 500,000 reais (over $96,500).

Another rancher said he lost 70 cattle to the scheme. His father and brother were also cheated of sales.

In early July, police seized some 12,000 cattle across the states of São Paulo, Tocantins, Mato Grosso do Sul and Rio Grande do Sul, showing how the stolen cows had been sold across large parts of the country.

InSight Crime Analysis

These recent cases suggest cattle thieves in Rio Grande do Sul are adopting more sophisticated methods and how authorities are taking an increasingly proactive response to the underreported crime.

In this case, cattle were taken in large numbers and sold to farmers in other states. They were reportedly sold at prices lower than their market value to speed up transactions and cover up the fact they had been stolen.

But most often, cattle rustling occurs at a more localized level, usually in the same state. Stolen animals are often sold to slaughterhouses or thieves kill the cattle themselves before selling their meat to grocery stores, restaurants and butchers. Some also steal the animals, move them, slaughter them and then sell their meat directly to consumers.

SEE ALSO: Argentina Turns to DNA to Fight Cattle Rustling

This latest scheme required the suspects to build up trusting relationships with ranchers to then defraud them of their cattle under the premise of a legal transaction. And thousands of animals were involved, a far cry from the small numbers usually stolen when ranchers are not around.

On the positive side, the success of this investigation suggests authorities across Brazil are teaming up to target the underreported, often unpunished, crime.

In late June, it was reported that a bill proposing the use of a comprehensive livestock tracking system was being debated by the city council of Dom Pedrito, a municipality found in the southern Rio Grande do Sul. If passed, the law will introduce a database of cattle brands and signs that authorities targeting cattle theft could consult via a cellphone application to check for irregularities.

And in April, a large-scale operation targeted livestock theft across Valle Verde, a municipality in the east of Rio Grande do Sul. Later that month, GZH reported the operation had resulted in the region's largest cattle seizure by police to date.

Reported incidences of cattle theft in Rio Grande do Sul fell from 1,286 across the first quarter of 2020, compared to 945 recorded during the same period in 2021.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


Peru’s government agency entrusted with protecting endangered species is under investigation for collaborating with shark fin traffickers who export illegal…

BOLIVIA / 28 NOV 2012

Anti-narcotics police in Bolivia have revealed that Brazil's PCC prison gang controls cocaine trafficking routes throughout the country, and are…


In a cable sent to the US Embassy in Asunción, released by WikiLeaks, US officials outline the "need" to obtain…

About InSight Crime


Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.


Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…


Exploring Climate Change and Organized Crime

10 SEP 2021

In July, InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley moderated a panel for the Climate Reality Project's regional series of workshops for young climate activists in the Americas. The week-long event…


Gearing Up a New Class of Interns

3 SEP 2021

InSight Crime is readying its newest class of interns – from universities in Europe and the Americas – to begin investigative work on a number of high-impact projects. For the…


Tracking Environmental Crime in the Amazon

27 AUG 2021

Next week, InSight Crime launches an investigation – conducted with Brazilian think-tank the Igarapé Institute – on the sophisticated organized crime structures and armed groups that…