KEY STATS: What you need to know about Spain’s mega farms

Spain’s mega farms have been making headlines ever since the country’s Consumer Affairs Minister told The Guardian they were damaging the environment. Here’s how many large-scale livestock farms there are in Spain, where they are located and how much they pollute.

KEY STATS: What you need to know about Spain's mega farms
From 2007 to 2020, pork production increased by 36 percent in Spain. Stock photo: RONALDO SCHEMIDT / AFP)

At least 7,100 mega farms 

Mega farms, called macrogranjas in Spanish, isn’t an officially recognised word yet but has been coined by environmental groups to refer to intensive livestock facilities that house thousands of penned-in animals in an enclosed facility. 

In many ways they resemble a factory with an assembly line rather than a farm where livestock can roam free. 

According to Spain’s State Register of Pollutant Emissions and Sources (PRTR), there are 7,100 industrial facilities of this nature across Spain. 

A total of 53 percent of them – 3,392 – are large-scale poultry and pig facilities, with tens of thousands more small and medium farms accross the country. 

As things stand, cattle farms in Spain do not have to report emissions to the PRTR, something the Spanish government is reportedly working on changing.

There are 69,126 farms rearing calves in Spain, but only 3,730 of them have more than 100 cows. 

There isn’t an official figure to determine when a farm becomes a mega farm, but pig farms with more than 750 pigs and poultry facilities with more than 40,000 birds have to report their emissions.  

What’s the problem with mega farms? 

In an article in early January in The Guardian, Spain’s Consumer Affairs Minister Alberto Garzón said: “what isn’t at all sustainable is these so-called mega farms. They find a village in a depopulated part 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”.

His comments have caused an uproar from the Spanish meat industry, other politicians and from senior members of the ruling Socialists, causing divisions in Spain’s coalition government.

But was Garzón right? The minister was referring to mega farms in particular, not those with more sustainable models. 

From 2007 to 2020, pork production increased by 36 percent in Spain, which is the biggest pork products exporter in the world.

Last December, the EU took Spain to court for violating the limits for nitrate pollutants in water and soil caused by agro-livestock waste.

The recent environmental disaster in Murcia’s Mar Menor, where thousands of dead fish washed up on Spain’s southeastern coastline, is scientifically proven to have been largely caused by intensive farming and the ensuing eutrophication, an environmental hazard that causes aquatic ecosystems to collapse due to a lack of oxygen in the water.

READ MORE: Five stats to understand why Spain’s Mar Menor is full of dead fish

One of the other main impacts of large-scale intensive livestock farming is the emission of methane, a gas with a greenhouse effect potential about 20 times greater than CO2 according to the UN.

Spain’s mega farms produced 99 million kilos of methane in 2020, according to PRTR data.

Spain has also failed to comply with the EU’s emission limits of ammonia into the atmosphere from 2010 to 2019.

In theory, all farms in Spain that exceed the PRTR’s emission levels need to report this and get a specific authorization and environmental impact statement to continue operating.

But the discontent and concern among Spain’s rural communities is palpable, with many residents demanding an end to intensive pig farming and fearing the impact on groundwater and on their quality of life from untreated manure from the animals.

And for the animals themselves, mega farms mean a horrible life trapped indoors with often only one square metre per pig, unhealthy living conditions which cause disease, stress, cannibalism and pre-mature death. 

READ MORE: Spain’s countryside rises up against ‘pig factories’

Where are Spain’s mega farms? 

The three regions in Spain where the majority of ‘macro farms’ intended for the intensive rearing of poultry or pigs are Aragón (922), Catalonia (856) and Castilla y León (582), all in the northern half of the country. 

In Catalonia, 41 percent of aquifers are contaminated by animal waste and 142 municipalities suffer from water supply problems. In Aragón, the water of 18 percent of municipalities is contaminated by pig waste.

Of the 115 large dairy farms across Spain, 32 are in Catalonia, 19 in Castilla y León, 12 in Castilla-la Mancha and 11 in Navarra.

Location of large farms in the poultry and pig sector that report emissions in Spain. Source: Spanish Environment Ministry

The largest farms for rearing cows for meat production are in Castilla y León (1,268) and Extremadura (1,157).

Livestock farming is responsible for some 2.5 million jobs in the country and accounts for €9 billion ($10 billion) in annual exports, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

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KEY POINTS: Everything that changes in Spain in October 2022

From VAT cuts on heating, a new citizenship law, a change to Spain's Covid travel restrictions, the latest on UK licences, a round-up of festivals and plenty more, become a member to find out about all the important changes in Spain in October 2022.

KEY POINTS: Everything that changes in Spain in October 2022

Spain’s new sexual consent law comes into effect

October 7th brings the enforcement of a government bill toughening the country’s rape laws by requiring explicit consent for sex acts.

In essence, the law reforms Spain’s criminal code to define rape as sex without clear consent. Crucially, that removes the need for rape victims to prove that they resisted or were subject to violence or intimidation.

READ MORE: ‘Only yes means yes’: Spain edges closer to passing new sexual consent law

“Consent is recognised only when a person has freely demonstrated it through actions which, in the context of the circumstances of the case, clearly express the person’s will,” says the bill.

The proposed reform comes after of a notorious 2016 gang rape of an 18-year-old woman by five men at the bull-running festival in Pamplona, northern Spain.

VAT cut on gas bills

In yet another bid to ease the pain of the cost of living crisis, the Spanish government has introduced a new cost-cutting measure which aims to decrease the amount both residents and small businesses will pay on their gas bills this coming winter.

The VAT cut, which comes into force on October 1st, will also apply to other items used for heating such as pellets, briquets and wood as the price of said biofuel products has also increased considerably in the lead-up to the winter months. 

READ MORE: How much will Spain’s gas VAT cut save me per month?

Bottled butane gas has not been included in the new measure, but its price have been frozen at €19.55 per canister.

The reduction will mean monthly savings for an average user of between €5 and €19, depending on how much they use and the type of contract they have, according to consumer associations.

Overall, the Spanish government estimates the move will represent a save of €210 million for the Spanish population. 

Clocks change

It’s that time of year again. The evenings begin to get darker a little earlier – and the clocks go back. In 2022, the change will come in the early hours of Sunday, October 31st, when daylight saving time officially ends and winter time begins. To be specific, the change comes at 3:00 a.m. on the morning of the 31st of October.

READ MORE: Why Spain is still in the wrong time zone because of Hitler

Fourth Covid vaccines for the over-80s

October will also see the ramping up of the second Covid-19 booster roll-out for people over 80’s and those in care homes, a campaign which also includes the flu vaccine for those who wish to have it. 

As planned, the campaign has started in all Spanish regions on September 26th, except for in Andalusia, where it will begin on October 3rd.

The vaccines to be used will the new inoculations developed by Moderna and Pfizer against the Omicron BA.1 sub-variant, serums approved by the European Medicines Agency on September 1st. 

In Andalusia the Covid-flu vaccination campaign starts on October 3rd, in Aragón and Navarre on October 10th, in the Balearics on October 13th, in Asturias, Cantabria, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, Madrid, Murcia and Castilla y León all on September 26th, whereas in the remaining regions the date for the double vaccination campaign is not yet known.

READ MORE: Spain starts fourth Covid vaccine rollout for over-80s

UK driving licences saga to continue as anger grows

As many of you will know by now, UK driving licence holders who have resided in Spain for more than six months have not been able to drive since May 1st. Five months later and there still isn’t a deal within close sight.

The UK Embassy in Spain is no longer speculating about when an exchange agreement could possibly be reached. The latest update posted on their Brits in Spain Facebook group on September 16th stated that: “We are genuinely making progress on resolving the outstanding points but, for reasons we’ve explained before, we cannot be definitive about the timescale.”

Another Facebook group called “Invasion of the British embassy in Madrid for the DL exchange issue” has since been set up where members are threatening to stage a protest unless the matter is soon resolved. 

Will October bring a major change? Progress may well be made in terms of negotiations but the legislation has to be approved by several branches of the Spanish government before it actually comes into force, and keeping in mind the speed at which bureaucracy in Spain usually moves, it is unlikely to be streamlined in the next 30 days.

Domestic workers law

Following a ruling by the EU’s Court of Justice (CJEU) and pressure from trade unions, the government of Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez adopted a reform is to introduce a bill aimed at ending the “discrimination” suffered by these workers.

READ MORE: The new rules for hiring a domestic worker in Spain

Under the changes, which come into force on October 1st, domestic workers are now entitled to claim unemployment benefits and cannot be dismissed without justification.

They will also be covered by healthcare “protection” and be able to access training to improve their “professional opportunities” and job conditions.

Grandchildrens’ citizenship law

A law that makes it easier for the children and grandchildren of Spaniards to gain citizenship will be debated in the Spanish parliament in October.

The bill, also known as the Historical Memory Law, proposes that the children and grandchildren of Spaniards (born in Spain) can gain Spanish citizenship without needing to live or be resident in Spain for any minimum period of time.

“Those born outside Spain to a father or mother, grandfather or grandmother, who would originally have been Spanish, and who, as a result of having suffered exile for political, ideological or belief reasons or sexual orientation and identity, have lost or renounced Spanish nationality, may opt for Spanish nationality, for the purposes of article 20 of the Civil Code,” the text of the proposed bill states.

READ ALSO: How foreigners can get fast-track citizenship in Spain

Covid temperature checks for travellers end

The Covid-19 pandemic is still affecting international travel to Spain – especially if you’re from a non-EU country. 

On Tuesday September 20th, Spain scrapped the requirement from all international passengers arriving by air or sea in the country to complete and show a Covid health control form.

Now, on October 20th, Covid temperature controls and visual checks will be scrapped, sources from Spain’s state airport manager Aena told Spanish daily El Periódico.

READ MORE: FACT CHECK: Do you still need Covid documents to travel to Spain?

However, it is important to note that non-EU tourists such as Britons, Americans, Australians, Canadians or New Zealanders still have to show one of three documents to be able to enter Spain, following an extension of the rule until at least November 15th. These are: 

  • A Covid-19 vaccination certificate –  Your vaccination status must meet the Spanish authorities’ validity period requirements. If more than 270 days have passed since your initial vaccination, you need to show proof of a booster shot.
  • A negative Covid-19 test – This should be either a PCR taken within 72 hours prior of departure or an antigen test, taken within 24 hours prior of departure. 
  • A recovery certificate –  This must be dated within the last six months. You can use a medical certificate or recovery record to prove your Covid-19 status.

Face masks are also still required on planes which are bound for Spain, but you don’t have to wear one at the airport.

Weather forecast

Spain has experienced some extreme weather this summer. With record temperatures, record rains and flooding in the Canary Islands, drought conditions, and flash floods in Murcia, Spanish weather has been changeable and unpredictable in September.

READ MORE: 640 flights cancelled as storm Hermine hits Spain’s Canary Islands

But what’s the forecast for October?

In terms of temperature, the average temperatures are set to be between 4-7 ° C lower than in September, which saw some of the summer heat linger into Autumn. Despite that, forecasts from Meteored suggest that the coming October will be warmer than usual, with temperatures up to 1 ° C above the average.

Expect some rain too as October is normally one of the rainiest in Spain except for a few regions of the country including the Canary Islands, the Balearics, the southern most points of Andalusia and the Upper Ebro.

Forecasts suggest that the rainfall will be primarily focused in the second half of the month, but the southeast and Balearic Islands will experience average rainfall throughout.

What’s on in Spain in October?

The turn in the weather doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot going on in Spain in October. Zaragoza celebrates one of its main fiestas, the Fiestas del Pilar.

Beteen the 4th and 12th of October, the fiestas of San Froilán de Lugo, one of the most popular celebrations in Galicia also takes place.

October is also a great time for foodies in Spain. Galicia hosts its Fiesta del Marisco (seafood festival) and at the end of the month is Castilla-La-Mancha’s Fiesta de la Rosa del Azafrán.

Elsewhere in Spain, October is an artsy month. In Alcalá de Henares, they celebrate Semana Cervantina – a weeklong celebration of Cervantes, author of Don Quixote, and there’s a nighttime performance of Don Juan in Alcalá.

Fuel prices still high but falling

For drivers, you’ll be pleased to know that petrol prices are steadily falling but still nowhere near the level before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The price of petrol has dropped by 20 percent to €1.70 per litre from the €2.15 price it reached in June (before the government discount) but still 12 percent more expensive than before the war began. Diesel prices have fallen by 15 percent to €1.81 on September 24th, before the government’s 20 percent discount is applied.

READ MORE: REMINDER: How drivers in Spain can get 20 euro cents off every litre of fuel