Even the BBC reported on the furore that followed the Spanish Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Alberto Garzón, recommendations for Spaniards to eat less meat.
But like in many cases with BBC World reporting, they didn’t go into details, given the huge range of world news that they are covering; in this case, however, they were important details.
Everybody piled into Minister Garzón, blowing his words up out of proportion, distorting them, deliberately misquoting them, and that’s just his supposed political allies.
Even his Prime Minister, during a visit to Lithuania when questioned on this point, failed to back him and instead stabbed him in the back – PM Sánchez’s coalition government is an uneasy partnership, after all.
The fact is that all international health authorities recommend consuming less red and processed meats, so nobody has a leg to stand on criticising him on scientific grounds, but the opposition knew that facts were to be avoided and straw man tactics were to be the line of attack; i.e., putting words into his mouth that he never uttered and then easily shooting them down.
He basically said that Spain has two problems; a public health issue and an environmental one. The former is the rise in cardiac disease due to constant consumption of meat, not only every day, but somethings twice or more times a day.
Secondly, he pointed out that one thing was traditional, extensive farming; i.e., small and medium livestock farmers, and quite another thing was the increase in intensive livestock farming where several thousand animal are bred in a confined area causing problems with local freshwater contamination.
He said that traditional farmers should be supported and aided whilst something should really be done about these huge, intensive livestock farms, which employ very few people. He proposed that there should be a debate on meat consumption and production.
The facts are that Spain is Europe’s largest meat producer and the second largest on a world level. Last year over 71 million animals were slaughtered to supply the sector. Many of the animals are slaughtered for foreign markets, like China. Of that, 7.6 million tonnes of meat are consumed by Spaniards per year
So, in what forms did the attack come in? Fellow minister Luis Planas, who heads the Ministry of Agriculture, said, “politicians aren’t here to cause problems,” adding that such a campaign would be as erroneous as one that states, ‘sugar kills.’ He was referring to another show down with the Sr. Garzón over increasing taxes on high-sugar-content drinks, no matter that most countries are doing precisely that in order to combat child obesity.
The animosity between the said ministers, perhaps, is because Garzón’s ministerial post was ‘invented’ for him so that he could be in on the cabinet meetings. Consumer Affairs had previously been part of the Minister of Agriculture, & Fishing’s department.
Nobody within the government came out to support Minister Garzón.
The socialist PM for Castilla-La Mancha, Emiliano García Page, who leans more to the right than to the left on many occasions, said, “in Madrid they say many stupid things, because some people there [Central Government] don’t know what is going on in the country.” He added, “Today it is about meat; tomorrow it will be about wine, and then cheese.” He concluded, “I don’t know what future dieticians hold for us, but if they’ve got nothing to do, they could at least stop inventing politics to make problems for people.”
Which brings us to the Spanish right. Conservative opposition leader, Pablo Casado, managed to turn a recommendation into a direct order not to eat meat, at all, with his, “Don’t tell us, leftist Government, what we should do in our own homes,” whilst the far-right VOX leader, Santiago Abascal, managed to go into overdrive with “the sinister clergy imposing upon us their new religion.”
And all this because somebody actually had the nerve to point out the truth concerning meat consumption.
The supposed allies, who stabbed Garzón in the back, and the Spanish right-wing opposition, both harped on about how healthily the Spanish eat with their Mediterranean Diet but the truth is that modern Spaniards do not follow a Mediterranean diet as their grandparents did, which was meat only occasionally but plenty of legumes, vegetables and fish.