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A young bovine looks up from a tightly packed holding pen at a live cattle auction. Argentina, 2023.

Molly Condit / Sinergia Animal / We Animals

Exposing the animals within Our Food Systems

[Content warning: Contains confronting images and/or video footage]

In 2023, We Animals teamed up with Sinergia Animal to explore how animals are farmed for food in Chile and Argentina. Our photojournalists Renata Valdivia and Molly Condit spent two weeks visiting more than 30 locations where pigs, cattle, goats, poultry and fish are bred, raised, exploited, transported and slaughtered for food.
Photographer/Videographer: Molly Condit
Videographer/Fixer: Renata Valdivia
Written by We Animals.
The following documentation, used in Sinergia Animal’s latest campaign, focuses on the experiences of animals at the region’s auctions, where thousands of animals are subjected to cruelty and neglect every week.
Maxine
Individual cattle look up from a densely crowded pen at a live animal auction facility. The Servicio Agrícola y Ganadero (SAG), the country’s government agriculture and livestock service, marked the animals with stickers and paint tags before the animals were corralled into pens. In some pens, animals are so crowded they cannot move more than a few inches. Feria de Animales Fegosa, Purranque, Osorno Province, Los Lagos, Chile, 2023.

Molly Condit / Sinergia Animal / We Animals

According to a 2022 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the livestock sector in Latin America and the Caribbean is set to increase by 14 percent over the next 10 years. This report also emphasizes the importance of global trade, stating that “by 2031 the region is expected to account for 18 percent of global food exports.”
“It is devastating to know that thousands of animals experience this level of suffering and neglect every week. What we have discovered in these auctions is unacceptable. We call on the community and competent government agencies: it is urgent to stop this systematic and massive violation of animal protection.” ― Carolina Galvani, Executive Director of Sinergia Animal

Watch Sinergia Animal’s campaign video

Editor’s note: Our work in this region was only possible because of advocates who work on behalf of animals across Latin America. While these visuals depict a specific region, animal exploitation is a global issue taking place in every country.

Inside Live Animal Auctions

Argentina is known globally for beef production and raises more than 50 million cattle each year, more than the human population of the country. At some point during their lives, these animals will be sent to auction where they will be either sold for slaughter or further fattening.

The Mercado Cañuelas, a large-scale live cattle auction in the Buenos Aires province, is one of the country’s many auctions where animals are sold prior to slaughter. During our photojournalists’ visit, an estimated 7,000 animals were brought to this particular auction from various farms.

Maxine
At a cattle auction, milk leaks from an emaciated dairy cow lying on a thick layer of wet feces inside a holding pen. The enclosure’s floor has no bedding. Mercado Canuelas, Canuelas, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, 2023.

Molly Condit / Sinergia Animal / We Animals

Dairy and beef cattle and calves stand squeezed in overcrowded in pens at a live animal auction facility. The Servicio Agrícola y Ganadero (SAG), the country’s government agriculture and livestock service, has marked all the animals with stickers and paint tags before the animals were corralled into pens. Feria de Animales Fegosa, Purranque, Osorno Province, Los Lagos, Chile, 2023.

Molly Condit / Sinergia Animal / We Animals

Young beef cattle stand in tightly packed pens at a live cattle auction. Potential buyers stand on elevated walkways above them to view the animals and place bids during each live auction. Mercado Canuelas, Canuelas, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, 2023.

Molly Condit / Sinergia Animal / We Animals

“This was my first live auction and the sheer volume of animals, the state they were kept in and their varying physical conditions were altogether horrifying. Mostly men attended or were involved, which made it even more interesting that our fixer was able to land an appointment with one of the very few women who work there, Valeria. I was able to document freely and noticed other attendees were using cell phones to take photos and video of their prospective purchases. A bell was rung continuously to indicate when a new auction was starting. The fear in the eyes of every animal who looked at me will never escape my memory. When I could, I told them ‘I see you.’ ” ― Molly Condit, Animal Photojournalist
A pig looks through a space in wooden rails while sleeping in the corner of a cement pen with several other pigs at a live animal auction facility. The Servicio Agrícola y Ganadero (SAG), the country’s government agriculture and livestock service, marked them all with paint tags before being placed inside this pen, and they will be auctioned either in pairs or individually. Feria de Animales Fegosa, Purranque, Osorno Province, Los Lagos, Chile, 2023.

Molly Condit / Sinergia Animal / We Animals

Sweeper at the beach in Canada. Photo credit: Cindy Hughes.
An elevated walkway above holding pens crowded with beef and dairy cattle at a live animal auction facility, hours before the start of sales. Only cattle are present on the site and more arrive on a transport truck in the background. Feria de Animales Tattersall, Osorno, Osorno Province, Los Lagos, Chile, 2023.

Molly Condit / Sinergia Animal / We Animals

Sweeper at the beach in Canada. Photo credit: Cindy Hughes.
A cow remains lying down at the loading dock of a live animal auction facility. The auction takes place one day a week, but sometimes two locations are used simultaneously, here at Fegosa and Tattersall in Osorno, Chile. This location auctions various animals, including cows, calves, pigs, sheep and horses. Feria de Animales Fegosa, Purranque, Osorno Province, Los Lagos, Chile, 2023.

Molly Condit / Sinergia Animal / We Animals

A thin, emaciated dairy cow stands in a dirty holding pen at a live cattle auction. Elevated walkways allow potential buyers to view the cows from above and place bids during each live auction. Mercado Canuelas, Canuelas, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina, 2023.

Molly Condit / Sinergia Animal / We Animals

Auctioneers sell both beef and dairy cows at auctions, who are aggressively corralled by handlers on horseback into crowded holding pens. The animals are packed in so tightly that they can’t move or access the single water trough provided inside each pen. The noise, forced movement and often abusive corralling back and forth into pens places great stress on each animal. These conditions and treatment appeared to be standard practice.

During this assignment our photojournalists also witnessed sick cows, including some with open wounds, some so emaciated they struggled to remain standing and one with such a severe ocular infection that his eye was bulging out of the socket.

In addition to the sale of adult cows, we documented the live auction of calves less than one week old as well as pigs and one horse.

An ailing calf who appears thin and weak lies on the ground in a bare cement pen shared with a horse at a live animal auction. While the horse stands nearby with a raised foot, the calf remains on the ground and largely unresponsive to the environment. Feria de Animales Fegosa, Purranque, Osorno Province, Los Lagos, Chile, 2023.

Molly Condit / Sinergia Animal / We Animals

These visuals provide a glimpse into the lives of animals in the often overlooked space between farm and slaughterhouse.

Sinergia Animal seeks to transform the Latin American food industry, promoting more ethical practices and raising consumer awareness about the implications of animal exploitation. Support their efforts by sharing this campaign video.

Photographer/Videographer: Molly Condit
Videographer/Fixer: Renata Valdivia
Written by We Animals.
Data sources: FAO / Dialogochino

Images and video clips by Molly Condit and Renata Valdivia.

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