Changes in Attitudes to Animals Trigger Political Disputes in Spain

As Spanish Catholics prepare to fast and abstain from meat on Friday as part of the holy period of Lent, a government minister sparked a political spat after suggesting that eating less meat was a good idea.

Spain is Europe’s largest exporter of ham, and jamón (a type of ham jerky) as it is known in Spanish, is a national gastronomic icon, along with the paella or Rioja wine.

Therefore, when Spain’s consumer affairs minister, Alberto Garzón, recently suggested eating less meat would help fight climate change and industrial agriculture could cause pollution, it sparked a heated national debate about farming methods.

He expressed support for traditional farming methods in which cows and pigs are allowed to move freely on farmland.

“It’s sustainable; what is unsustainable is this so-called big farm,” Garzón said in an interview with The Guardian, a British newspaper.

The main opposition conservative People’s Party is using the dispute to try to win the support of disgruntled voters in rural areas.

Pablo Casado, leader of the People’s Party, said in an early February speech that voters needed “more agriculture and less communism” – a reference to Garzón’s membership of the Communist Party-linked “United Left” extreme left party.

The Spanish government said last week that large farms with more than 10,000 animals comprise only 0.016% of all farms in the country. [lt/jm]