At 7:00 this Tuesday morning, while in the heart of the El Pozo company in Alhama de Murcia they were preparing to slaughter their 14,000 pigs for the day, 25 Greenpeace activists have sneaked into the central facilities of the leader in industrial production of pork in Spain. The group has asked the company for a moratorium: stop the macro farm expansion which takes its toll from air and water pollution.
This is how the macro-farms that the PP says do not exist
The activists have broken into three points of the complex: the access of the managers and two other production areas. 15 people have closed the entrance to the venue. The messages were simple: “Moratorium now” and “El Pozo kills the environment”. "We have come to ask that the macro-farms be stopped and to ask for a meeting with those responsible," says an activist at the entrance gate. In just six minutes, two local police patrols have come and shortly after the Civil Guard.
El Pozo is the locomotive of the model that has made this type of farm grow to satisfy the large-scale production chain. More than 3,000 macro farms in Spain. 56 million pigs slaughtered per year, first place in the European ranking. In these facilities in Alhama, in addition to the slaughterhouse, two million sausages are manufactured and 1.5 tons of meat are processed every day.
At the gates of the headquarters, the coordinator of the Greenpeace campaign, Luis Ferreirim, explains that "it is time to know who the main beneficiaries of this industrial model are."
The economic figures show this panorama: El Pozo invoiced almost 1,400 million euros in 2020 (8.9% more) with a net profit of 92 million. Its pig breeding and fattening division, Cefusa, had a turnover of 356 million with more than 30 profit. "We employ more than 8,000 people," reports Grupo Fuertes, a holding company to which both companies belong.
On the other side of the scale is the long-term damage that is being caused by the accumulation of thousands of pig heads in industrial facilities. In the specific case of the Region of Murcia, The massive growth of the pig herd was made despite the fact that the regional government of López Miras (PP) had been warned of the danger and damage caused to the Mar Menor.
Lack of "systemic" control of discharges
Spain suffers from a "systemic" problem to manage the discharge of livestock (and agricultural) waste into the water, as the European Commission has explained on several occasions.
Own The Spanish Government has admitted that they cannot be reversed within the legal period half of the areas with high rates of nitrates in groundwater. These nitrates come precisely from agricultural and livestock discharges. A report from the Ministry of Ecological Transition on the application of European regulations admitted that "more ambitious reductions than those initially considered, estimated at 25%," will be necessary.
This with the sampling data available to the Ministry, which are limited. The Greenpeace organization has been compiling for a year values measured by a citizen network that has reflected that more than half of the measurement points exceed the legal limits of nitrate concentration. A contamination of the water that, until now, goes somewhat unnoticed.
However, these obvious problems in controlling the arrival of toxic substances in the waters are what have caused the Commission has denounced Spain for applying the nitrates directive in a “poor” way. The notices began in 2015 and the complaint to the European Court arrived in December 2021.
The lack of water protection against nitrate spills has grown so much that 25% of Spanish territory is vulnerable to this type of pollution, which is officially called "diffuse". They are more than 122 million hectares, more than half of the useful agricultural area of Spain, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.
In addition, the concentration of such a large herd, especially pigs that exceed 30 million head, has made Spain systematically fails to comply with the permitted levels of ammonia emissions into the atmosphere.
In 2020, Spain released 483 kilotons of ammonia into the air, according to the latest National Inventory of Emissions into the Atmosphere completed at the end of 2021. It was 12 kilotons more than the previous year and a figure that is above the limit set by the European directive of reduction of national emissions located at 467kt. And that new calculations with a more permissive ceiling had come into force.
Meat leads the ecological footprint of Spanish consumption
The way of consuming food –which imposes a way of producing it– is the main responsible for the ecological footprint of consumption in Spain, as has just been certified by a study by the Joint Research Center of the European Commission. More than half of the environmental impacts linked to consumption come from the food sector.
The Center's analysis, in collaboration with the Ministry of Consumption, explains that "the highest environmental footprint corresponds to pork (23%)", that is, to the way of obtaining these products, then to beef (14%) and chicken (7.1%). "The impacts associated with wine (7.1%, especially due to the use of water) and cheese (7.0%) also appear relevant", concludes the work.