Spaniards consume more meat than any other country in the 27 nation EU, eating more than one kilogram (2.2 pounds) on average per person per day.  They eat meat for breakfast, lunch and dinner with meat snacks in between.  To supply this enormous amount of flesh Spain is dotted with "mega farms" where millions of animals are created and slaughtered in unsanitary conditions.

Now Alberto Garzón, an economist and the country's consumers affairs minister in the ruling left of center coalition government has come out strongly against this unfettered consumption.  Garzón said people in Spain needed to realize the huge impact that eating meat – particularly beef raised on industrial megafarms – had on the environment, and to change their eating habits accordingly.  His concerns emanated from studies that indicated desertification was ongoing in Spain.  A process by which climate change due to toxic gasses in the atmosphere transform large currently habitable areas into arid deserts.

“If we don’t act, it won’t just be climate change we’re dealing with – it’ll be the triple crisis: the loss of biodiversity; pollution, and climate change,” he said. Stating that Spain, due to its Mediterranean basin geography, is particularly vulnerable to climate change and that the Spain we all love is in danger of disappearing forever.

“It would be the end for a country like Spain. Spain is a country in the Mediterranean basin – it isn’t the UK or Germany – and desertification is a very serious problem for our country, not least because it depends so much on tourism. Visiting a desert isn’t quite as attractive as visiting the Costa del Sol.” Garcon followed.

The minister also pointed to a recent report that found that 20 livestock companies are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than either Germany, Britain or France.  He treads lightly on the subject as he realizes Spaniards love their beef, thus he is recommending they cut consumption "in half'.  Even the country's own food agency recommends people eat 200g to 500g of meat daily, less than half the enormous meat appetite of today.

As a part of the ruling government Garzon's words carry weight, however others in his party were dismissive of his suggestions. Even the socialist Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, appeared to scoff at the ideas, saying: “Speaking personally, a medium-rare steak is hard to beat.” Garzon dismissed the criticism by stating “Other countries – like Germany, the UK and France – are well ahead of us on this. This was the first time in Spain that someone in the government is saying what the scientists have been saying for a long time.”

We have all wondered when Spaniards would grow a conscience and look at their actions in the light of today's human values.  From throwing goats out from windows for a festival (Salto de la cabra) to bull fighting to 2.2 pounds of beef a day, Spain has been the heartless brother of Europe.  Garzon's pronouncements, in combination with the very real threat of climate change wiping out the Spain we know of today, possibly will have an impact.  However in a country so immersed in the killing of animals it will take more than one minister to reverse the wheel.  The entire government needs to get involved, warn people and implement change.

Garzon's courage did produce a dialog on news media in Spain.  “Civil society organizations and associations of ecologists, pediatricians, doctors and nutritionists all came out to defend us all the way,” he said. “I think that helped us win the debate because the issue was debated for three days on all the news programmes and in bars.”

We certainly hope so minister Garzon, we certainly hope so!