A dispute has broken out in Spain over meat consumption

As of: 01/23/2022 3:06 p.m

A kind of religious war is raging in Spain: Consumer Minister Garzon criticizes meat consumption – and gets caught in the crossfire of criticism. The government actually agrees that the industry should become more sustainable.

By Reinhard Spiegelhauer, ARD Studio Madrid

Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez calls himself a feminist and, during a visit by Chancellor Olaf Scholz, has once again asserted that he wants to make Spain a more sustainable country. But that doesn’t mean he’s a vegetarian: “A medium-fried T-bone – unbeatable,” says the head of government.

Reinhard Spiegelhauer
ARD-Studio Madrid

Minister of Consumers with an image problem

Sanchez’s commitment to eating meat came shortly after his Consumer Minister, Alberto Garzon, from the small left-wing coalition partner Unidas Podemos, found that the Spaniards eat considerably more meat than recommended by the WHO: “The recommendation is 200 to 400 grams – in Spain you eat a kilo Meat per capita and week.” This is unhealthy and bad for the climate because of the greenhouse gases from factory farming, says Garzon.

The consumer minister survived a shit storm from the summer, but was not converted. Now the trade journal “Carnica” – loosely translated “fleshy” – has brought an interview with the minister to this headline:

“Garzon says in the Guardian Spain exports poor-quality meat from abused animals.”

A massive shortening of the interview – because Garzon argues against mega farms with thousands to tens of thousands of animals, but at the same time praises traditional grazing.

Catching votes in rural areas

For the opposition, it is still a godsend. Because regional elections are coming up in Castile-Leon, one smells voters in rural areas. “Resign,” the conservative People’s Party is calling, and its party leader, Pablo Casado, defends industrial mega-companies: “There are strict regulations for mega-companies, no animal cruelty, and the meat isn’t poisonous either,” he says.

The conservative’s election campaign photo date – of all things on an extensive pasture – is of course easy to see through. But the socialist regional president of another rural region, Castilla-La Mancha, also knows what the issues of meat consumption, factory farming, animal welfare and climate problems are really about: thousands upon thousands of jobs and votes depend on the agricultural industry in Spain.

“Only his private opinion”

Not only will they be needed in the regional elections next month – the centre-left coalition will also urgently need them in the parliamentary elections two years from now. From the Socialists’ point of view, however, it would be nicer if the junior partner Unidas Podemos remained a small junior partner at best. So the socialist government spokeswoman Isabel Ródriguez made it clear that the left-wing consumer minister was only giving his private opinion. The cabinet decides on draft legislation, the spokeswoman added.

What she didn’t say: Climate protection – and thus sustainable development in agriculture – has long been part of the coalition agreement. The government as a whole is obliged to do this, reminds Deputy Prime Minister Yolanda Diaz, party friend of the consumer minister, and warns: “So let’s cultivate our coalition, also in the choice of words.”

New labeling requirements for food?

Only one to three percent of Spanish fattening farms are large industrial companies, the farmers’ association calculates. Greenpeace counters that more than 90 percent of the pork produced comes from factory farming. Some interest groups of smaller farms are now proposing a mandatory label with the origin – regardless of whether it is Serrano or Chuletón.

pig or not pig? Sacrilege in Serrano Land

Reinhard Spiegelhauer, ARD Madrid, 19.1.2022 · 10:16


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