Meat-loving Spaniards were outraged this week when a member of the government targeted the industry for environmental and health reasons, prompting the prime minister to declare himself unable to resist a perfectly cooked steak.
In a country where the average person eats about 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of meat per year, a backlash may have been inevitable when Consumer Minister Alberto Garzon served a Twitter roast under a hashtag that translates to “#LessMeatMoreLife “.
“The amount of water needed to put a piece of meat on a plate is worrying,” Garzon, a politician from the radical left-wing Podemos party, said in a six-minute video loaded with infographics and numbers.
“Aquatic animals drink, it is necessary to produce their food, to transport and package food, all this contributes to depleting the planet’s resources”, he added.
“One kilo of meat means 15,000 liters (4,000 gallons) of water”.
The comments sparked conflict with others from all political backgrounds, including fellow ministers in the leftist government led by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
# photo1 “If you put me in front of a medium rare rib steak, I can’t resist,” Sanchez said during an official visit to Lithuania, at the other end of the European Union to 27 countries.
Beyond the cultural role of meat in the Spanish diet, where many restaurants serve raw ham-based tapas dishes under neat rows of the same pork thighs hanging from the ceiling, its production is also vital to the economy. .
The national meat industry association says it accounts for nearly 28 billion euros ($ 33 billion) in revenue or 2.3% of Spain’s GDP, making it the country’s fourth-largest industry.
– ‘Irresponsible and unworthy’ –
Garzon’s comments were “irresponsible and unworthy of a Spanish minister,” a group of six meat industry associations said in an open letter, accusing him of “stigmatizing” the sector.
Agriculture Minister Luis Planas also took Garzon to task, accusing him of raising a “false problem” and calling his criticism of producers “unfair”.
Meat production accounted for “just eight percent” of Spain’s greenhouse gas emissions, Planas said.
# photo2And Health Minister Carolina Darias has sought to play down her colleague’s health claims, telling a press conference on Friday that people should aim for “a diet that allows them to alternate between eating large amounts of protein and vitamins… a balanced and complete diet, all in the right amount ”.
Garzon referred to the government’s strategic plan “Spain 2050”, which calls for reducing meat consumption for both health and environmental reasons.
“Numerous studies show that meat consumption among the Spanish population is two to five times the recommended amount,” reads a section of the 700-page document.
In 2020 alone, the average Spanish meat consumption increased by more than 10% compared to the previous year, according to an annual report from the Ministry of Agriculture released last month.
The environmental group Greenpeace has also defended Garzon, attacking the Prime Minister’s “irresponsible” comments about his love of steak.
Sanchez “is proud to fight the climate emergency, but when the time comes to cut back on meat consumption – a fact backed by science – responds that he can’t resist a steak,” the activists said.
© 2021 AFP