The outrage in Spain continues to grow on Friday over the Consumer Affairs Ministry’s “eat less meat” campaign in Europe’s most meat-consuming nation.
According to the ministry, Spaniards eat more meat per capita than anywhere else in the European Union — more than one kilogram (2.2 pounds) per week.
The Spanish nutrition agency recommends consuming less than half that amount, between 200 and 500 grams.
Spain is also a major meat supplier, slaughtering 70 million livestock animals each year (7.6 million tons of meat), according to the ministry.
The livestock sector accounts for 9.1% of Spain’s greenhouse gas emissions and each kilo takes around 15,000 liters of water to produce. This, he said, could become increasingly problematic in the country prone to droughts and rising temperatures.
“Excessive meat consumption is bad for our health and bad for the environment… That does not mean we cannot have barbecues with our families, but we should moderate our consumption,” says Spanish Consumer Affairs Minister Alberto Garzon in the campaign video.
In the land of jamón and chorizo, the campaign has unleashed a flurry of criticism from the agricultural sector, opposition politicians and even fellow government ministers.
“We’re sick of politicians telling us what to do,” Reyes Maroto, minister of tourism and commerce, said on Friday. She added that Spain has “the best gastronomy in the world” and that meat is one of the country’s most “valued products.”
Stupefied’ by campaign
In an open letter to the consumer affairs minister, six meat-producing associations said they were “stupefied” by his campaign.
The letter went on to share data about Spain having the longest life expectancy in the world, how the transportation sector causes more than three times more emissions than livestock farming and how 90% of the water used for livestock in Spain is rainwater.
It also reminded Garzon that Spain’s livestock sector accounts for 2.5 million jobs and €9 billion ($10.6 billion) in exports.
The opposition Popular Party has asked Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to fire Garzon immediately for the campaign.
Popular Party leader Pablo Casado said Garzon is “demonizing” the important economic sector and called the campaign “another example of left-wing interventionism that wants to control citizens.”
Even Sanchez, along with most other members of Spain’s progressive coalition government, has disavowed the “eat less meat” campaign.
When asked about the controversy, Sanchez’s response was: “Speaking in very personal terms, when someone gives me a medium-rare steak, it’s unbeatable.”