Enough pigs killed in Spain to feed the country (and some)
Pork export boom to China triggers environmental concerns with 50 million animals killed every year
The number of pigs slaughtered in Spain each year outnumbers the country's population, new figures show, as the government pledges to crack down on the growing environmental threat from the meat industry. According to a 2017 government report, the number of pigs killed in Spain topped 50 million for the first time, with the Spanish population currently numbering 46.5 million.
A boom in pork exports, particularly to meet China’s insatiable appetite for the meat, has led to a massive increase in factory-farmed pigs in Spain, with about 30 million animals being fattened at any one time in a sector worth €6bn (about R99bn) in 2017.
Total production of pork meat has grown by 20% in the past five years to reach 4.3 million metric tons, of which only around a quarter is consumed on plates up and down Spain, where the average personal consumption of pork is 21kg a year.
The boom in livestock farming means agriculture is now the fourth-largest producer of carbon emissions, with 10% of the national total, exceeded only by transport, electricity generation and industry.Spain’s environment ministry announced last month that it was planning new controls on pig farming to improve “hygiene, animal health and welfare and the environment”, noting that livestock farming is responsible for two-thirds of total emissions from the agricultural sector.
Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister, has made the environment a priority policy area since taking office in June, setting up a ministry of environment separate from the previous joint portfolio along with agriculture. Sánchez named Teresa Ribera, a climate change expert, as “minister for ecological transition in Spain”.
Environmentalists warn of serious damage if factory farming is allowed to grow further. “We’ve moved to an industrial and intensive model with grave consequences for water resources and the atmosphere,” Dani González from Ecologists in Action told Spanish news outlet Público.
The campaign group is demanding a moratorium on new pig farms, but says regional authorities compete to attract more of the businesses to keep jobs in rural areas.
One pig will consume 15 litres of water a day, meaning the industry uses more water than the cities of Seville, Alicante and Zaragoza combined.
Nitrates from animal waste are also beginning to contaminate groundwater, environmentalists say. More than 84 million cubic metres of liquid manure runs out of pig factory farms each year, accumulating in slurry pits.
Under the previous government, 33 plants that had been generating electricity from the gas in pig biomass were closed after renewable energy subsidies were slashed.
Various police stings this year have seen hundreds of thousands of ham and pork products seized for being kept in poor condition prior to commercial distribution.
– © The Daily Telegraph