MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s agriculture minister and his consumer affairs counterpart clashed publicly on Thursday over the latter’s campaign to reduce meat consumption in a country famed for its ham, chorizo sausage and plethora of other animal produce.
Agriculture Minister Luis Planas, speaking on Cadena Ser radio, rebuked the “Less meat, more life” campaign recently launched by Alberto Garzon’s Consumer Affairs Ministry.
“It seems to me the campaign is unfortunate,” Planas said, adding that it denigrated the work of Spain’s farmers.
Soon afterwards, Garzon hit back on state broadcaster TVE, saying that eating less meat is healthier and better for the environment. He had suffered health problems from eating too much meat, he added.
The clash illustrated the tensions between the two parties of the ruling coalition and highlights an ongoing debate in society about animal farming’s role in stoking planet-warming carbon emissions.
Planas belongs to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialist Party, which is strong in some rural areas and is supported by traditional working-class voters. Garzon’s more radical Unidas Podemos depends on younger and urban progressive voters.
The UPA agricultural union also criticised the campaign, calling it “misleading, fraudulent and irresponsible” in a statement. It also stressed the economic role of cattle-rearing in Spain’s depopulated rural areas.
Opposition politicians piled in, with Pablo Casado, leader of the conservative People’s Party saying: “Don’t tell us what we have to do in our home and instead go home.”
Animal rights and environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, have cheered Garzon’s campaign but urged the government to take more concrete action, particularly against carbon-intensive industrial farming.
Prime Minister Sanchez, asked about the row while on a trip to Lithuania, weighed in on the side of the carnivores.
“For me, there’s nothing that beats a well done T-bone steak,” he said.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro and Nathan Allen, Editing by Angus MacSwan)