The ordeal of 600 buffaloes abandoned to their fate to make way for soy plantations in Brazil | Climate and Environment


Abandoned buffalo on a farm in Brotas, in the interior of São Paulo.
Abandoned buffalo on a farm in Brotas, in the interior of São Paulo.Gabriel Schlickmann

The buffalo Condessa continues to need the help of veterans to get up. Abandoned to her fate on the São Luiz da Água Sumida farm in Brotas, a town located 247 kilometers from the capital of the Brazilian state, she spent days and days without food or water, until she fainted. His legs couldn’t support his weight.

Fallen to the ground, the animal was trampled by part of the herd, with some others in the same state as her or worse: extremely thin, dehydrated and with bites on the body. Weakened and wounded from head to toe, Condessa is surrounded by more than 600 buffalo – calves, females and males – languishing in the open air. Condessa survived after being rescued by a team of activists and veterinarians present on the farm for approximately three weeks, trying to revive the animals.

On November 11, the Brazilian Civil Police arrested the owner of the place, Luiz Augusto Pinheiro de Souza, for practicing acts of abuse and mistreatment against at least 667 buffalo, including the death of at least 22. The police team arrived at the farm thanks to to an anonymous report.

According to the lawsuit filed in the case, to which EL PAÍS has had access, Souza leased his land for soybean cultivation. He transformed the pastures into plantation fields, leaving the animals adrift. “Despite the fact that there is an area abundant in pasture, which could save the lives of the animals, the owner of the farm has seen fit to lease it, so it is currently fenced, being prepared for the soybean plantation, while, right next to it, hundreds of animals suffer, confined without access to food, “says the document.

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The police report describes the situation as follows: “The scene was one of absolute terror, aggravated by the strong smell of carrion and the presence of countless vultures. Those old war movies, in which at the end of a battle there were several wounded and dead soldiers scattered all over the place, that’s what we find there ”.

“Wherever the sight was passed, buffaloes were seen dead, or lying in agony, waiting with suffering, without any professional or other accompaniment, the painful arrival of death,” adds the report. In all, about 1,000 buffalo were in Souza’s possession. The owner was fined 2,067 million reais (about 325 million euros) for mistreatment. He was even arrested, but was released after posting bail.

Animal care, for the moment, corresponds to the NGO Amor e Respeito Animal (ARA). According to the process, the organization’s representative, Nelson Alex Parente, is authorized to enter the property with a maximum of 10 professionals to attend to endangered animals. To do this, ARA has erected a field hospital, maintained by donations from civil society, within the farm.

Souza removed the NGO professionals from the farm and had them dismantle the field hospital, arguing that he would take care of the buffalo. The situation culminated in the death of another animal. Once again denounced, the police verified, once again, that there were not adequate conditions for the welfare of the animals in the place and that they were in danger. Two farm employees were detained and the NGO was granted the right to take care of the animals again.

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Activists tend to a buffalo in serious condition.
Activists tend to a buffalo in serious condition.Gabriel Schlickmann

Lawyer Antilia Reis, representing ARA, explained that the judge in question is a substitute, since the chief judge and the city prosecutor went on vacation the week the buffalo case came to light. “I don’t think I saw the photos and conditions here in the process. He had to take care of the animals on Saturday, but he had no food. We give him ours along with the water that comes from the town hall. Every day about 11,000 liters of water and 10 tons of food are used, that is because the animals are weak. It can reach 18 or 20 tons. On Sunday he had nothing left and he did not even have professional help to take care of the animals, ”Reis reported. Animal protection, care and rescue organizations say it is the largest case of abuse in Brazil. According to activists, never before have there been such a large number of animals in such precarious conditions in the country.

Left to their own devices

In the process is the testimony of one of the three employees of the farm, where he claims that at least 100 buffalo were buried in a ditch by order of Souza. “About three months ago I noticed that some buffaloes began to die from lack of food and water. What we put was insufficient for the demand of the animals. It was difficult for us to cope with the demand for treatment of these buffalo. I affirm that on the left side of the road that goes from Brotas to Ribeirão Bonito, passing by the company’s headquarters, there is a lot of earth and there was a deep hole that was dug there to bury some woods that were not buried, being used by Luiz to bury about 100 buffaloes killed in recent months, “said the employee in court.

Last Wednesday, November 24, the owner appeared at the farm to question the professionals who take care of the animals about the change of location of three empty feeders and an empty water tank, which had been carried out precisely to facilitate access from animals to water and food. When asked by the journalist about the situation at the scene, Souza said he would make a statement. EL PAÍS contacted Celio Barbará da Silva, the lawyer who represents him, who said he would not speak because the case is kept “secret.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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