Politics 05/01/2022

Spanish government disavows Minister Garzón for criticising megafarms

The head of Consumer Affairs says that "animals are mistreated" and that meat of "poorer quality" is produced at megafarms

3 min
The Minister of Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón.

MadridThe Spanish government has disavowed the Minister of Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón, for his criticism of industrial livestock farming, and it is not the first time it has done so in recent months. In an interview published in British newspaper The Guardian he stated that megafarms "They pollute the soil, they pollute the water and then they export this poor quality meat from these ill-treated animals." "It's a worse quality meat, it's ill-treatment of animals and it has a huge and disproportionate ecological impact," he said in Spanish, according to the transcript he posted on his Twitter account. Despite the fact that the interview is from December 26th, this Tuesday controversy arose when some media retrieved it: in English the term poor quality instead of worse was used, and this caused opposition parties and meat companies to attack Garzón.

"The Minister's considerations are contextualized in their personal perception", explained this Wednesday the spokesperson of the Spanish government, Isabel Rodríguez, in an interview to La Sexta, in which she dissociated herself from the leader of Izquierda Unida's opinions. When asked if he would have to rectify or resign, the also Minister of Territorial Policy said that this question would have to be asked to the minister himself.

In a tweet, Garzón has spoken of a "ball" that began on Monday "driven by the lobby of certain large companies that promote polluting macro-farms". Rodríguez has wanted to back the sector making it clear that for Spain it is "a fundamental priority from the economic point of view", that the meat industry "conforms to quality standards, generates jobs, is an element of territorial cohesion and respect of the environment".

The government has thus tried to put an end to the controversy, which had been joined by the main opposition parties. The leader of the PP, Pablo Casado, has described as "unacceptable" what he considers an "attack on farmers and on the image of our country". The president of Cs, Inés Arrimadas, has also joined him: "It has been the meat sector's turn to suffer his high level of ignorance and sectarianism. Spain does not deserve a minister like this and we will force Congress to vote for his reprobation", she tweeted.

The right thus joined companies and associations that have called for Garzón's resignation. CEOE employers' association issued a statement this noon in which it endorsed the criticism made by agricultural employers' association Asaja – it has described Garzón's statements as "inadmissible" – and has recalled that livestock meat production accounts for 7.8% of greenhouse gas emissions, according to data from the Ministry of Ecological Transition. The CEOE points out that the sector contributed €8.6bn in exports in 2020 to the Spanish trade balance.

Campaign in Castilla y León

Criticism of Garzón has also come from the PSOE. The president of Aragón, Javier Lambán, has said that the minister's statements are an "insult to intelligence" and has stressed that they represent a "direct aggression to the Aragonese economy". Another of the communities with an important weight of the primary sector is Castilla y León, now in the run up to the 13 February elections. Its president, Alfonso Fernández Mañueco (PP), was one of the first to attack Garzón.

The Spanish government's disavowal of Garzón could also be read as related to the elections, given that rural affairs are crucial in this campaign and the rise of the regional platforms in the "emptied Spain" is a threat to the interests of pretty much all parties, both on the left and on the right. Either way, it is not the first time that the Spanish government disavows Garzón on the same issue. "Personally speaking, a medium-rare steak is hard to beat", president Pedro Sánchez said a few months ago the president, after a controversy that had originated after Garzón said that in the State between two and five times more meat than recommended was consumed.