Spain records more pigs than people for first time ever

Spain is being forced to consider the environmental impact of its most famous product as figures show there are now more pigs in Spain than people.

Spain records more pigs than people for first time ever
Iberian pigs graze on acorns and fruit in an paddock in Jabugo, Huelva. Photo: AFP

A report produced for the Environment ministry has revealed that in 2017, the number of pigs slaughtered for pork products exceeded 50 million, 3.5 million more than the 46.5 million human population of Spain

Spain has seen a surge in pork production over the last five years to meet a growing export demand from China, the report found.

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File photo: Subbotina/Depositphotos

Of the 4.3 million tons of pork meat produced last year – 20 percent more than in 2012 – only a quarter is eaten within Spain, where each Spaniard consumes an average of 21kg of pork annually.

The vision of free-range pigs happily roaming across Spain’s dehesas is in stark contrast with the fact that the majority of pork products comes from factory-farmed animals.

Just a tiny percentage of pork consumed derives from the pure-bred acorn fed Iberian pig that is famous for producing the best jamon serrano.

But although the industry generated a whopping €6 billion last year, concerns are mounting over the detrimental effect of so many pigs on the environment.

Livestock in Spain now generates 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, the fourth largest producer after transport, electricity generation and industry. 

Environmentalists have also raised concerns over the strain pig farming places on drought-prone areas of Spain. Each animal consumes 15 litres a day, meaning the industry as a whole uses more water than the cities of Seville, Alicate and Zaragoza combined.

Ground water is also at risk of contamination from nitrates in animal waste, warn NGO Ecologists in Action.

Spain’s environment ministry announced soon after taking office in June, that it was planning new controls on pig farming to improve “hygiene, animal health and welfare and the environment”.

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Photo: AFP



Police operation targets illegal water tapping in Spain

More than 130 people were arrested or placed under investigation for illegal water tapping last year, Spain’s Guardia Civil police said on Wednesday following a huge operation.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park”
Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in Andalusia. Photo: CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP

During the year-long operation, “133 people were arrested or investigated for extracting water through more than 1,533 illegal infrastructure devices”, the police’s environmental unit said in a statement.

A similar operation in 2019 had targeted 107 people.

Spain is one of the European countries most at risk from the impact of drought caused by global warming, scientists say.

Water usage issues are often at the heart of heated political debates in Spain where intensive agriculture plays an important role in the economy.

Police said most of their operations took place “in fragile and vulnerable areas such as the Doñana natural park” in the southern Andalusia region, one of Europe’s largest wetlands and a Unesco World Heritage bird sanctuary.

They were also operating in “in the basins of Spain’s main rivers”.

In Doñana, police targeted 14 people and 12 companies for the illegal tapping of water for irrigation, a police spokesman said.

Ecologists regularly raise the alarm about the drying up of marshes and lagoons in the area, pointing the finger at nearby plantations, notably growing strawberries, which are irrigated by illegally-dug wells.

“The overexploitation of certain aquifers for many reasons, mainly economic, constitutes a serious threat to our environment,” the Guardia Civil said.

The European Court of Justice rapped Spain over the knuckles in June for its inaction in the face of illegal water extraction in Donana which covers more than 100,000 hectares (250,000 acres) and is home to more than 4,000 species, including the critically endangered Iberian lynx.

According to the government’s last official estimate, which dates back to 2006, there were more than half a million illegal wells in use.

But in a 2018 study, Greenpeace estimated there were twice as many, calculating that the quantity of stolen water was equivalent to that used by 118 million people — two-and-a-half times the population of Spain.

Spanish NGO SEO/Birdlife also on Wednesday raised the alarm about the “worrying” state of Spain’s wetlands.