The stabling of livestock farming implies changes in both local ecosystems (regeneration of forest stands via reduced grazing) and those located thousands of kilometers away (deforestation to produce grain for feeding livestock). Despite their importance, these externalities are poorly known. Here we evaluated how the intensification and confinement of livestock in Spain has affected forest surface changes there and in South America, the largest provider of soybeans for animal feed to the European Union. For this purpose, we have used Spanish soybean import data from Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina and a land condition map of Spain. The area of secondary forest in Spain that has regenerated as a result of livestock stabling has been ~7000 kha for the decade 2000-2010. In the same period, 1220 kha of high value South American ecosystems (e.g. Chaco dry Forest, Amazonian rainforest or Cerrado) have been deforested. While these figures may offer a favorable interpretation of the current industrial livestock production, it is not possible to speak of compensation when comparing the destruction of well-structured ecosystems, such as primary South American forests, with the creation of secondary forest landscapes in Spain, which are also prone to wildfires. Our results highlight how evaluating land use change policies at a national or regional level is an incomplete exercise in our highly telecoupled and globalized world.