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‘Big Soy’ production in Argentina is dirty and dangerous

The world’s reliance on soy to feed factory farmed animals is having a devastating impact in Argentina.
RAW: Raw Truth of Factory farming and the destruction of lands and lives in Argentina

Factory farming is one of the biggest causes of animal cruelty on the planet. But it’s arguably one of the biggest causes of harm to us and the natural world too.

It’s why Compassion in World Farming created the Raw campaign – to expose this raw truth.

Their investigation tracks this harm from the factory farm to the soy fields of Argentina.

‘Big Soy’ production in Argentina is dirty and dangerous.

At the root of it is not the soy itself the problem but explosive human numbers all still demanding livestock products, such as eggs and meat.

This protein-rich bean – grown in fields as far as the eye can see – is destroying the health of Argentineans and their communities. All so that the beans can be shipped out to fatten up cows, pigs and chickens, mostly in factory farms.

Argentinean soy fields are in a toxic tale. Lands are being grabbed, people getting sick or dying, and there's intimidation and violence.

Around 10-12% of the original forests remain. It's been evastating. Some locals say they don't want the money, just healthy lives for their children.

Everywhere you go you see the shadow of the soy industry. The soy isn't being eaten by the people but being shipped thousands of miles around the world to fill the bellies of animals such as cows, pigs and chickens, mostly in factory farms. In this green gold rush, lands are being grabbed, people thrown off their land and displaced, and lives are being destroyed. There's little space left for locals' own animals.

Traditions of land care and heritage are being destroyed. Communal lands were shared for generations, thousands of hectares, are being swallowed up. Protesters are being rounded up and imprisoned. They are resisting the bulldozers razing the land and trees that provide oxygen and food.

Residues are in above the ground, and in the ground. The only thing that grows is soy beans, and then what's left is desserts. The catastrophic effect has been the clearing of land and mono-cultures. A large proportion of native forests have gone. It's gone on for 30 years now, and Argentina has one of the highest rates of deforestation in the world.

These massive fields of mono-cultures use pesticides on and in the ground, killing everything except the soy beans. Most of the soy is sprayed with a cocktail of chemicals. The real cost is borne by the communities and those who live near the crops.

Initially the green crops look deceptively assuring, but they started to see medical problems emerge: Cancer, leukaemia, lupus, rashes and birth deformities.

International researchers have shown that people get sick and suffer diseases when exposed to pesticides.

In 2010 doctors from the University of Cordoba came to see what was happening to respond to peoples' complaints. They agreed that exposure causes birth defects and illnesses. Intensive care units are full of people with deformities.

There are massive environmental, and social costs. People are afraid. It's all about big businesses and profits.

Factory farming isn't just an animal welfare issue. Intensive farming means intensive environmental destruction. We must end our addiction to soy, and meat that's not produced naturally. Exports from developing countries don't lift them from poverty. It just fills the pockets of the businesses and corporations. Large land owners are collaborating with corporations to feed the factory farms, and we need to reverse that trend.

Food production needs to be supported locally, by local governments and peasants. The land belongs to the people, not governments. 97% of soy is fed to animals, most of them factory farmed.

“Challenge” of population growth

Feeding the growing global population is a huge challenge and we can't rely on tackling this problem alone. We currently give a third of the world's cereal harvest to our livestock, and the animals use up much of the energy from the feed. If more plant crops were eaten directly by people, rather than feeding them to our farm animals, many more people could be fed.


Our planet holds 7 billion people, but nearly one billion people are currently hungry. Factory farming is not the answer to feeding the world; in fact the grain feeding of confined animals uses more food than it produces. (UNFAO, 2010, World Livestock 2011: Livestock in Food Security - ( See more )

Several kilograms of feed crops are needed for every kilogram of meat. (UNEP, 2011, World Food Supply: read more )

A much more sustainable, common-sense approach is for a higher proportion of plant crops to be eaten directly by people and for animals to be put back on the land.

ABS: Rising “challenge” of population growth

Australia’s resident population is estimated to increase to 35.5 million by the year 2056, based on current trends in fertility, life expectancy at birth and net overseas migration (Population Projections, Australia, 2006 to 2101, 3222.0).

The world’s population continues to grow at a rapid rate and in late 2011 was estimated at just under 7 billion. By 2050, it is projected that there will be 9.3 billion people on our planet, with nearly all of the population growth occurring in developing countries, including sub-Saharan Africa and India (United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2011). With a third more mouths to feed than there are today, FAO has estimated that by 2050, food production worldwide will need to increase by 70% (FAO, 2009b).

Australian Bureau of Statistics

It's considered a fait accompli that world populations will continue to soar in ecological overshoot, and that the our planet Earth has an obligation to lift it's game and increase food outputs by 70% to meet human demands. Native animals die off, become extinct and are “culled” due to starvation, but even intelligent economists and governments seem to think in terms of an anthropocentric, benevolent Mother Nature, or excessive human powers of manipulation, to overcome any mere natural limits and “challenges” of human overpopulation. We can't possibly cross the social, religious and political limits of suggestion a global plan to stabilise, and then reduce, human numbers through family planning!

Factory farms are the mass exploitation of sentient creatures, who must endure drastically cut life-spans, and perpetual deprivation, to feed masses of peoples in global markets. The costs of mono-cultures, pesticides, diseases, reproductive deformities, land grabs, deaths, land clearing, loss of biodiversity and sustainable farming are all part of the mere “challenges” of feeding swelling and uncontrolled human populations.

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As mentioned in this article most soy beans go into the mouths of pigs and chickens which are then eaten by us. Soy beans represents the cheapest form of high protein feed needed by these animals to grow fast. Historically both pork and poultry where consumed at much lower levels (pre-WW2). The reason for this was the high price of grain and cost of high protein additives like soy beans. People actually ate more red meat as it was grass fed, with pork and poultry being a 'luxury' meat eaten on special occasions. Alternatively, on small farms pigs and chickens can be maintained on scraps and their own foraging, but this would still mean that you only ate them a few times a year.

As grain prices go up it will make pork and poultry meat more expensive, forcing people to eat less meat and increasing the proportion of what they still consume as red meat (beef/lamb/goat etc.) that is raised on pasture, lowering the overall meat consumption.

For now everyone should be aware that conventionally raised poultry and pigs (i.e. factory farms aka CAFO - concentrated animal feeding operations) consume the bulk of the worlds soy production. Pasture raised pigs and poultry also are fed some soy, but less than their CAFO counterparts. If we all ate less white meat and switched our sources of poultry and pork to pastured raised animals it would significantly reduce demand for soy we wouldn't see land in places like Argentina being taken over by this crop.

Remember than soy beans are a internationally traded commodity. In Australia we only produce a small percentage of the soy beans that are consumed here (by pigs and poultry), this would mean that some Argentinian soy is imported here and being consumed by animals which we in turn eat. It's all very well to complain about problems but we have to be aware that it is our eating habits that DIRECTLY CREATE this problem. It is difficult to change the world, but we can change what we do ourselves.