“Poor meat and mistreated animals”: Spain in turmoil following the minister’s remarks | Spain

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Claims by a Spanish government minister that factory farming harms the environment and leads to the export of low-quality meat sparked a furious backlash after his comments were published in the Guardian.

In an interview published on Boxing Day, Alberto Garzón, the Minister of Consumer Affairs, defended traditional grazing “as an environmentally sustainable means of raising livestock”.

“It’s sustainable; what is not sustainable at all are these so-called mega-farms, ”he said. “They find a village in a depopulated part of Spain and put 4,000, 5,000 or 10,000 head of cattle there. They pollute the soil, they pollute the water and then they export this poor quality meat from these mistreated animals.

Garzón is the coordinator of the United Left Party, a junior member of the coalition government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, the center-left Socialist Workers Party (PSOE).

His remarks sparked outrage from the meat industry, opposition politicians and senior PSOE officials, forcing the government to distance itself from his comments.

Isabel Rodríguez, government spokesperson, said Garzón was speaking in a personal capacity. She added that the livestock industry was “a top priority” for the government and praised the “extremely high quality” of its products.

Far from being contrite, 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“ flawless ”.

“I’m not saying anything new,” he told the station. “I’m just relaying what the scientists are saying. Everyone knows that industrial meat farming is polluting… and emits greenhouse gases. Europe has filed a complaint against Spain for the excessive level of pollution by nitrates.

Garzón also pointed out that while the Spanish Agency for Food Security and Nutrition recommends that people eat between 200g and 500g of meat per week, the average Spaniard consumes more than 1kg.

Pedro Barato, the president of the Asaja agricultural association, accused Garzón of irresponsible behavior and called for his resignation. “The Spanish livestock industry depends on exports to survive,” he said. “You can’t send that kind of message to the international press.”

Álvaro Mateos Amann, president of the Basque Veterinary Association of Biscay, also called for Garzón’s resignation, saying that the words of what he called the “pseudo-minister” were another demonstration of “the poor quality of our political representatives and their lack of respect. for the livestock sector ”.

The center-right Citizens Party said in a statement that “in a single paragraph” Garzón had caused “irreparable” damage to the Spanish livestock industry, while Pablo Casado, the leader of the Conservative People’s Party , said it was “unacceptable for the government to tell the international press that Spain exports poor quality meat from mistreated animals”.

A report released in October said intensive pig farming likely played a major role in one of Spain’s biggest environmental disasters that resulted in the deaths of thousands of fish in the Mar Menor lagoon. salt water from southeastern Spain.

Scientists blame decades of nitrate-laden runoff from farms triggering large algal blooms that deplete the water of oxygen, choking fish underwater.

According to government figures, in 2021 there were 32 million pigs in Spain, in addition to seven million cows and 15 million sheep and goats.

Garzón had already been attacked in July for urging the Spaniards to reduce their meat consumption. “That doesn’t mean we can’t have a family barbecue every now and then, just that we do it with a little more restraint,” he said. “Eating too much meat is bad for our health and bad for the planet. “

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