Friday, December 8

Macro farms are not livestock, they are a low-cost industry

The controversy over the macro-farms and their subsequent manipulation has shown that the Spanish right has no limit when it comes to misrepresenting and confusing. Meanwhile, the PSOE has no problem playing along in an exercise in inconsistency that is harmful to the Spanish government itself. It is one more chapter of the virulent and irrational political environment that the country is experiencing, fueled by media hoaxes that enjoy the mud of lies. At least it has had a positive effect: that there is talk, once again, of the macro-farms.

Because of the macro farms had already been talked about, and a lot. And a virtual unanimity had been achieved: very few —except the owner companies— defended them, because we all know that they are a very serious environmental, territorial and social problem, and a model incompatible with sustainability, health safety and animal welfare. That “everyone” also includes parties that now feed a macro embarrassment as crude as it is sterile due to pure electoralism. You only have to take a look at their Twitter accounts to verify it (as much as they have rushed to delete messages) or votes held in institutions against this polluting and unsustainable livestock model.

One of the forums where macro-farms and their dangers have been discussed is the European Parliament. With the support of The European Greens, our parliamentary office organized an event there in 2018 on the problem, which was attended by representatives of many of the parties involved: ranchers, inhabitants of affected towns, environmental groups, etc. One of the first conclusions was that, indeed, there is no clear definition of “macro farm”. In this act, the European Parliament studies service proposed, with the professionalism and rigor that characterizes it, a simply quantifiable method: the density of animals in the territory, and also proposed a more clarifying name. When the density of head of cattle is very high, then it was no longer a farm, neither macro nor micro, but “factory farming”.

And that’s something else, it has nothing to do with a farm, not even with livestock. The “factory farming” should be translated into Spanish as what it is: “industrial meat production”. If we start calling things by their name, we will see everything more clearly. It’s about industry, and that’s why the farmers’ organizations want to stay “out of the controversy.” Because putting as many animals as possible confined in a space regardless of their conditions and fattening them up as quickly as possible with chemical feed and antibiotics, has nothing to do with livestock. Is about an industry that offers a “low cost” product and that like everything that is low cost, it also implies poor living conditions for the animals, poor working conditions for those who work there and low quality for the final product but a high cost for health, the countryside and the weather. To such an extent that Germany’s new Green Minister for Agriculture has proposed end the “junk prices” of meat.

All of the above are well-known truisms. The towns do not usually want a macro-farm in their municipal area. Their installation in rural areas not only does not stop depopulation —the working conditions are very precarious and they create little employment—, but in many cases it speeds it up due to the deterioration caused by water pollution and bad odors that prevent other activities such as agriculture or tourism. Let’s call things by their name, we are talking about an industry, low-cost meat production, and it is a dangerous industry. Much.

Beyond the noise and based on the facts, the European Parliament approved in November 2021 a report on the “from farm to table” strategy clearly betting on permanent or ecological extensive livestock farming, calling for “providing support to farms that make the transition to more sustainable forms of production and abandon (…) high-density livestock farming”. The support was transversal and even a large part of the European right, except for the Spanish PP, seconded it.

While things are advancing in Europe, everything indicates that we can also do it in our country. In this sense, the proposal of Verdes Equo and Más País in Congress -which already has the support of Compromís- is of great interest, which proposes creating a meat labeling similar to that already existing for eggs, where it is differentiated the meat depending on whether it comes from extensive or intensive farming. Consumers have the right to have easy and simple information about what they eat to promote a healthy, sustainable and animal-friendly diet. On the other hand, a moratorium on macro-farms is proposed so that new ones cannot be created or existing ones expanded, while an exact definition of extensive and intensive farming is established, as we began to do in Brussels. Lastly, cooperation between the ministries involved (Agriculture, Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge, Health and Consumption) is essential to promote the Mediterranean diet, based on a lower intake of animal proteins and better food quality.

Our best asset to improve daily life is a balanced diet, respect for the territory and better health for all people. For this, we expect from the rest of the political arc more calm and proposals, and from the Government more coherence and BOE.