Alberto Garzón, the Spanish minister of consumer affairs, has said that eating less meat will play a key role in helping Spain mitigate the effects of the climate emergency and slow the process of desertification. Because of its geography, the risk of desertification due to global heating is very palpable in the Iberian Peninsula, which already has a growing semi-arid desert in Tabernas, in the southern region of Almeria. 

Mr Garzón, who is an economist and is the coordinator for the United Left Alliance in Spain’s Socialist-led coalition government, said to the Guardian: “People here know about the part that greenhouse gases play in climate change, but they tend to link it to cars and transport… It was only very recently that everyone started to look at the impact of the animal consumer chain and, especially, at the impact of beef. Other countries were pretty advanced on that but in Spain, it’s been a taboo.” He particularly criticised the industrialised mega beef farms: “They find a village in a depopulated bit of Spain and put in 4,000, or 5,000, or 10,000 head of cattle. They pollute the soil, they pollute the water and then they export this poor quality meat from these ill-treated animals.”

Although he did not go as far as asking Spaniards to stop eating meat, nevertheless a “reducetarian” message like this coming from a politician in Spain, or any of its autonomic regions, is quite rare. However, it is not surprising that it comes from him, as he is well known for his progressive views (and this is why he is usually the target of far-right politicians). His forward-looking policies include a crackdown on the betting industry, a ban on unhealthy food advertisements aimed at children, and his criticism of the sexism of the toys industry. Although it does not seem that neither the prime minister nor his ministerial colleagues echo his views about the need to reduce meat consumption, is refreshing to see a politician in Mediterranean countries who does not stop addressing these issues once becoming part of a government. 

“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.