Claims by a Spanish government minister that factory farms are damaging the environment and leading to the export of poor quality meat have sparked a furious backlash following the publication of his comments in The Guardian.
In an interview published in San Esteban, Alberto Garzón, Minister of Consumption, defended traditional grazing “as an environmentally sustainable means of cattle raising.”
“That is sustainable; what is not sustainable at all are the so-called mega-farms, “he said. “They find a town in an uninhabited part of Spain and put 4,000, 5,000 or 10,000 head of cattle. They pollute the soil, pollute the water and then export this poor quality meat from these abused animals ”.
Garzón is the coordinator of the Izquierda Unida party, a minor member of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, the center-left Socialist Workers Party (PSOE).
His statements have provoked the outrage of the meat industry, opposition politicians and senior PSOE officials, forcing the government to distance itself from his comments.
Isabel Rodríguez, the government spokeswoman, said Garzón was speaking in a personal capacity. He added that the livestock industry was “a top priority” for the government and praised the “extremely high quality” of its products.
Far from regretting it, Garzón rejected the claim that he was speaking on his own behalf. “What I said, I said as Minister of Consumer Affairs. There is no other way to see it, “he said in a radio interview with Cadena Ser, adding that his comments were” impeccable. “
“I’m not saying anything new,” he told the station. “I am only transmitting what the scientists say. Everybody knows that factory farming of meat pollutes… and emits greenhouse gases. Europe has presented a case against Spain for the excessive level of contamination by nitrates ”.
Garzón has also pointed out that although the Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition recommends that people consume between 200g and 500g of meat a week, the average Spaniard consumes more than 1 kg.
Pedro Barato, president of the Asaja agrarian association, accused Garzón of irresponsible behavior and called for his resignation. “The Spanish livestock industry depends on exports to survive,” he said. “You cannot send this type of message in the international press.”
Álvaro Mateos Amann, president of the Basque Association of Veterinarians in Vizcaya, also demanded the resignation of Garzón, saying that the comments of the one who called the “pseudo-minister” were one more demonstration of “the poor quality of our political representatives and their lack of respect for the livestock sector ”.
The center-right Ciudadanos party said in a statement that “in a single paragraph” Garzón had caused “irreparable” damage to the Spanish livestock industry, while Pablo Casado, leader of the conservative Popular Party, said it was “unacceptable that the government tell the international press that Spain exports poor quality meat from abused animals ”.
A report published in October said that intensive pig farming likely played a role in one of Spain’s biggest environmental disasters that killed thousands of fish in the Mar Menor, a saltwater lagoon in southeastern Spain.
Scientists blame decades of nitrate-laden runoff from farms for triggering vast algal blooms that deplete oxygen from the water and cause fish to suffocate underwater.
According to government In figures, in 2021 there were 32 million pigs in Spain, in addition to seven million cows and 15 million sheep and goats.
Garzón was previously attacked in July for urging the Spanish to reduce their meat consumption. “This doesn’t mean we can’t have a family barbecue every now and then, just that we do it a little more sparingly,” he said. “Eating too much meat is bad for our health and for the planet.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism