At largish intervals, the photographer Frank Berger from Leipzig repeatedly positions himself for days at a time opposite the entrance to the Weissenfels abattoir in Saxony-Anhalt, which is part of the Tönnies Holding, one of the world’s largest companies in the meat industry. In the 2021 business year, 20.24 million pigs were slaughtered in the facilities of this corporate group. The holding company has evolved – this is a genuine German success story – from a butcher’s shop founded in Rheda, North Rhine-Westphalia in 1971.
From a fixed vantage point, Berger documents in a strict series all the consignments entering and leaving the Weissenfels abattoir. Presented as slide or video projections, these sequences of images not only document the circumstances of transportation, delivery, killing, dismemberment and removal. For the lettering on the vehicles also reveals the wide-ranging corporate network of the Tönnies Group.¹
In Weissenfels, the closure of the export department specialising in the supply of “pigs’ ears, snouts and tails”² was announced for 2023. The reason for this was a ban on German pork exports to Asia imposed in September 2020. In April 2021, in turn, it was reported that Tönnies had received a permit for the construction of a fully automated abattoir in the Spanish region of Aragon. Scheduled to go into operation in autumn 2023, the plant would cost 75 million euros and cover an area of almost 30 hectares, the equivalent of about 42 football fields.³ While this is being opposed by environmental activists in the region, political leaders are hoping for economic revival of the area, which is poor in infrastructure.⁴ It is often in such regions with few alternatives that companies generate local acceptance with a little money for local sports clubs or fire brigades and supposedly generous road improvements. Thirty hectares, by the way, is the daily maximum new land take that the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) wants to achieve in 2030. Currently, 55 hectares of new land are claimed for settlement and transport every day in Germany.⁵
¹ Federal Ministry of Justice, Company Register (ed.), Bundesanzeiger, https://www.unternehmensregister.de/ureg/ (retrieved: 20.4.2023).
² “Schlachtunternehmen Tönnies schliesst Abteilung in Weissenfels”, in: Leipziger Volkszeitung, 12.3.2023, https://www.lvz.de/der-osten/sachsen-anhalt/schlachtunternehmen-toennies-schliesst-abteilung-in-weissenfels-AYWS2TRG7AQLA5NTERWEVX3UVI.html (retrieved: 20.2. 2023).
³ “Tönnies erhält Genehmigung für neuen Schlachthof in Spanien”, in: SUS, 21.4.2021, https://www.susonline.de/markt/toennies-erhaelt-genehmigung-fuer-neuen-schlachthof-in-spanien-12536749.html (retrieved:1.5.2023).
⁴ “Recherchetour Spanien”, in: Aktion Agrar, undated, https://www.aktion-agrar.de/recherchetour-spanien/ (retrieved: 1.5.2023).
⁵ “Flächenverbrauch – Worum geht es”, website des BMUV (Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection, https://www.bmuv.de/themen/nachhaltigkeit-digitalisierung/nachhaltigkeit/strategie-und-umsetzung/flaechenverbrauch-worum-geht-es (retrieved: 15.4..2023).
Born in 1972, Leipzig; lives in Leipzig
• 1992–1999 Studied photography, Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig • 1999–2001 Master student under Timm Rautert, Academy of Fine Arts Leipzig
E 2011 Black Man, Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig • 2010 Fleischwerk Weissenfels, Kunstverein Leipzig; Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles, FR, 2016 • 2008 La guia secreta de la rambla, La Virreina, Centre de la Imatge, Barcelona, ES (C) • 2007 Street & Studio, Museum Folkwang, Essen, DE and Tate Modern, London (C) • 2006 Talents 04: National Portrait Gallery, London (C) (SE)
P Vom KZ zum Eigenheim. Bilder einer Mustersiedlung (with Oliver Decker and Falk Haberkorn), Springe, DE, 2016 • Traffic Assistants/Theseus und Kentaur, Leipzig, 2014