‘Eat less meat’: Minister calls on Spaniards to cut down on carnivorous habits

Consumer Affairs Minister Alberto Garzón has reignited the debate about Spain's love of meat by asking Spaniards to consume less 'carne' to protect their personal health as well as the future of the planet.

'Eat less meat': Minister calls on Spaniards to cut down on carnivorous habits
A Spanish butcher cuts ribs at a Madrid market. Photo: Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

“I am worried. I am worried about the planet,” Garzón said in a video posted on Twitter on July 7th, pleading with Spaniards to cut down their meat consumption to improve their personal wellbeing and that of the planet’s.

“Without a planet we have no life, we have no salaries and we have no economy.

“And we are bringing this upon ourselves. One thing we can change, which has a direct impact on the planet, is our diet. We can change our diet and improve the state of the planet”.

Garzón explained that according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the meat and dairy industry accounts for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

He believes that a “50 percent reduction in emissions could be achieved” if Spaniards are able to adjust their diet and consume a moderate amount of meat, which is recommended by the health authorities.

Spain consumes seven million tonnes of meat each year, which comes from the slaughter of 70 million animals.

The Spanish Agency for Food Safety and Nutrition recommends a weekly consumption of between 200 and 500 grammes of meat (carne in Spanish), while Spaniards consume on average more than one kilo. This is between two and five times more than what is considered optimal.

In the video, Garzón also criticised the meat industry and particularly macro-farms, saying that “for us to have one kilo of beef, 15,000 litres of water are required”.

Spanish minister asks people to consume less meat. Photo: Free-Photos / Pixabay

According to FAO data cited in the video, Spain is the country that consumes the most meat in the European Union.

The latest data from Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture also revealed an increase in meat consumption of 10.5 percent in 2020. Per capita consumption is close to 50 kilos per year and each Spaniard spent an average of €350 on meat in 2020.

Garzón continued to say that Spaniards don’t need to cut out meat completely, but should aim to reduce it, changing their diets to include more salads, legumes, rice and vegetables.

He also admitted that “not all types of livestock are the same” and that “extensive farming is much more sustainable than large macro-farms: it helps enrich soils, prevent fires and create jobs”.

Livestock farmers however have rejected Garzón’s recommendation to consume less meat and some associations have already demanded his resignation due to “his erroneous attack”.

The Young Farmers Agricultural Association (Asaja) in the city of Valladolid has issued a statement in which it requests the immediate termination of Garzón as Minister if he does not rectify his statement.

In 2015, the WHO issued a health warning that carcinogens were present in certain types of meat, including jamón, however that didn’t seem to curb Spaniards’ appetite for their most beloved product. 

Despite Spaniards’ excessive consumption of meat, it doesn’t seem to be affecting their health too much, as the Spanish are predicted to have the longest life expectancy in the world by 2040 – mainly thanks to their Mediterranean diet. In 2019, Spain was already considered the healthiest country in the world, according to the Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index. 


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You can now be fined €2,000 in Spain for leaving cardboard in the street

Two stiff fines handed out to Madrid residents who left cardboard boxes next to recycling bins rather than inside them have brought to attention a new Spain-wide law against leaving waste on the street.

You can now be fined €2,000 in Spain for leaving cardboard in the street

It’s not uncommon in Spain to see large cardboard boxes sitting on the street next to the bins, instead of inside them.

Whether it’s as a result of the contenedores de basura (bins) being full and the boxes not fitting through the slits, leaving cardboard by the side of the bin is something that most of us living in Spain have probably been guilty of at some point.

The alarming news is that if you commit this misdemeanour in Spain, you can now actually be fined for it.

A law was passed by the Spanish government in April 2022, but it is only now coming to light following two cases of people being fined for doing exactly this.

Article 108 of law 07/2022 states that “the abandonment, including littering, the dumping and uncontrolled management of any type of non-hazardous waste puts people’s health at serious risk or is causing serious damage or deterioration to the environment”, and it is therefore an offence.

Article 109 of the same law states that the fine for minor infractions can be up to €2,001, for serious infractions penalties range from €2,001 to €100,000 and for very serious offences penalties go from €100,000 to €3.5 million.

In late September 2022, a man in the Barajas neighbourhood of Madrid received a fine from the Madrid City Council, for “leaving a box outside the dumpster meant for the disposal of cardboard”. The city hall decided that he should pay €2,001.

This is the second fine that has occurred recently, with another woman being fined in Madrid’s Aravaca neighbourhood for leaving a large cardboard box outside the bins, which contained baby nappies she bought on the internet.

She was identified because her name and address were on a sticker on the outside of the box, but she has claimed that it wasn’t her who left the box by the side of the bin but rather one of the building’s concierges who was responsible for taking out the neighbours’ rubbish. 

There is no evidence that towns and cities in other regions in Spain are currently handing out such large fines to their citizens, but Spanish law states they are now at liberty to do so, and municipalities can also implement their own laws and fines relating to incorrect waste disposal. 

Madrid City Council has defended its actions pointing out that it has recently drawn up its own new law for the Cleaning of Public Spaces, Waste Management and Circular Economy, and that those who are fined can reduce the amount by 40 percent if they pay in the first 15 days after receiving the fine.

The aim of this is to have a cleaner city by implementing measures that “enable the reduction of waste generation to guarantee the protection of the environment and people’s health, and to promote a greater collective awareness,” the council said in a statement.

The draft bill is set to be approved in December and includes new penalties for offences such as leaving large cardboard boxes outside their corresponding bin, with proposed fines of up to €750 for not properly recycling bottles or other glass objects.

Madrid also plans to hand out €3,000 to revellers who don’t throw away bottles and other waste from botellones (outdoor drinking gatherings).

Between now and December, when the bill will be approved, citizens can put forward their arguments stating whether they believe the sanctions are too high and if they are justified before it is voted upon by the council.  

Madrid city mayor José Luis Martínez-Almeida said he was “surprised” by the high fines but explained that the final amounts will be enshrined in the new decree. He hasn’t indicated what will happen to those who have already been slapped with the higher €2,001 penalties.