Too much meat? Spain factory farming debate creates beef





Madrid (AFP) Debate over the environmental impact of Spain's huge factory farming sector is heating up in the country, Europe's biggest meat consumer, and splitting its ruling coalition.


In an interview published in British daily The Guardian, Consumer Affairs Minister Alberto Garzon lashed out against Spain's "so-called mega-farms", calling them unsustainable.


"They find a village in a depopulated bit of Spain and put in 4,000, or 5,000, or 10,000 head of cattle," he said.


"They pollute the soil, they pollute the water and then they export this poor quality meat from these ill-treated animals."


Garzon is the coordinator of the tiny United Left party, a junior member of the minority coalition government led by Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, and his comments angered farmers.


"There are no mistreated animals in Spain, minister," the UPA union, which represents small producers, said in a statement.


It said Garzon's statements were "based on falsehoods, clumsy, nearsighted and could have harmful effects on Spanish meat exports".


Pablo Casado, the leader of the conservative main opposition Popular Party (PP) which is strong in some rural areas, also weighed in, calling Garzon's words "an attack against ranchers and farmers and the image of our country".


Government spokeswoman Isabel Rodriguez said Garzon was speaking in a personal capacity.


She added that the government "supports the livestock sector, which contributes decisively to our exports".


The debate risks deepening the divide between the Socialists and left-wing coalition partner Podemos ahead of an election in the Castile and Leon region north of Madrid as the PP rides high in the polls.


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