Thursday, July 29, 2021

To beef or not to beef? Spanish ministers clash over campaign to eat less meat

The parliamentary beef has exposed raw political differences between parties within Spain's ruling coalition.

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A Spanish minister has been roasted by members of his own government over his efforts to reduce meat consumption in the country.

This week, consumer affairs minister Alberto Garzón, launched a campaign to encourage Spaniards to eat less meat.

“Eating too much meat is bad for our health and for the planet,” he said in a video on Twitter.

But for some of his parliamentary colleagues, his plea to load up with veggies was difficult to swallow.

“It seems to me this campaign is unfortunate,” agriculture minister Luis Planas told a local radio station. “The ‘Less meat – more life’ campaign is unfair on Spain’s meat industry, which is a major contributor to the country’s economy,” he said.

Those views were echoed in an open letter penned by six meat-producing associations which accused the minister of defaming a sector that accounts for 2.5 million jobs and exports worth billions.

This criticism raised the stakes for Garzón, who went on state TV to defend his campaign and clarify his message.

The idea, he said, is not to stop people eating meat altogether. Rather, he urged everyone to follow the guidance of Spain’s food regulator, which recommends eating between 200g and 500g of meat a week rather than the current average of 1kg plus, he said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says many national health authorities advise people to limit intake of processed and red meat, both of which are linked to increased risks of death from heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses.

The emissions produced by cattle destined for burger buns have also been linked to climate change.

Yet meat remains a dietary staple worldwide for cultural, economic and personal reasons.

The parliamentary beef has exposed raw political differences between parties within Spain’s ruling coalition.

When asked about the row during a diplomatic trip to Lithuania on Thursday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez appeared to side with the carnivores, saying for him steaks are “unbeatable”.

Meat eating is also a contentious subject in neighbouring France, where the government recently criticised Lyon’s mayor for removing meat from school dinners.

But in France, beef eaters cannot accuse vegetarian plaza de toros aficionados of hypocrisy.

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