Operation San Bernabe

ARM first became involved with these investigations in June of 2011. ARM operatives collaborated in one of the most extensive joint campaigns of animal welfare groups in the USA and Mexico to shed light on the world’s most deplorable animal auctions – The San Bernabe Auction, outside of Mexico City, Mexico. 

The campaign included Animal Recovery Mission (ARM), Animals Angels, The Equine Welfare Alliance, The Animal Law Coalition, The Anti Fur Society, and Mexico’s leading animal advocates, APASDEM.

Together these organizations worked to release video documentation and footage to the Governor, and next potential President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto. The campaign’s purpose was to urge the Government to enforce existing Federal Laws for the welfare of animals at the San Bernabe Market.

The institutions and authorities, federal and local governments, have had full powers to inspect and monitor the auction, and therefore could solve this dilemma, have remained passive and sluggish before our presence. Since the International campaign launched, ARM has continued to be a strong force and has succeeded in bringing awareness with constant petitions, emails, and communications with political leaders in Mexico City.

ARM’s efforts resulted in wide-spreading awareness lending to international pressure on the Mexican Government, forcing them to become active in making changes in the operating of San Bernabe. Including, adhering to sanctioned animal welfares codes of conduct and pursuing responsibility for the misconduct and cruelty inflicted upon the countless animals that have found their way to the auction.

As a result of ARM’s relentless efforts, we have received positive responses from the auction proprietors, making it the first time that the San Bernabe Mercado has acknowledged the horrific and cruel conditions of the auction and are expressing a willingness to improve the codes of conduct at San Bernabe.


In October of 2014, ARM returned to Mexico City and met with APASDEM to discuss the current status of the animal auctions and new investigations that required collaboration. What followed was an undercover infiltration into the auction with ARM’s Founder, Richard Couto, and two of ARM’s investigators.

Since ARM’s visit in October, ARM and APASDEM put together detailed reports that included countless animal cruelty violations, including handling, medical attention, and transportation, ARM documented. The ARM shared the findings with leaders in the governing divisions in control of the animal cruelty violations. 

In APASDEM’s efforts to enforce humane handling of all of the animals at the San Bernabe Auctions, veterinary students are present. However, ARM investigators witness a minimal effect for the animals who were suffering broken legs, open wounds, and injuries. Some of the animals were only months old and were forced in excruciating pain, to walk onto the slaughter trucks, with no medical attention or euthanasia. Although their presence seems to many as a grand effort, it is still a long way from stopping animals from enduring unnecessary pain, suffering, and treatment. Much of this is because a live horse or animal flesh is worth more than that of one that arrives at the slaughterhouse dead.

The transportation violations included many of the animals overloaded onto rickety trucks filled to overcapacity. Many of the animals slip into cracks in-between the ramps and the trucks, where they get their legs trapped in between the metal shafts. The handlers whip the animals senselessly even though it is evident the animals are unable to free themselves. They are also herded onto the trucks by whips, plastic bags on sticks flashed in their faces, or cattle prodded. It is frightening for the animals who are exposed in the open trailers with no water or shade once they are on the transports.

Many people know the San Bernabe Markets as cruel to horses, but there is so much more animal cruelty documented by ARM investigators.

Cattle are sold and tied tightly to the backs of pick up trucks on extremely short ropes. They are tied in a fashion that doesn’t allow them to hold their heads in a natural position, the ropes burning into their, and confined in this painful position for hours (See in the gallery below).

At the entrance to the market, turkeys are bound tight in bundles of ten or so birds. Cock rosters, goats, cats, and puppies kept in tiny cages, and multiple species of animals shoved into communal cages with no water, shade, or food.

Operation San Bernabe led in widely distributed press articles, one of the leading Spanish newspapers, El Pais, recently conducted an article that received worldwide attention.

There is also an in-depth upcoming documentary feature with the Fusion Network coming soon!