Government pleads with pleasure-crazed Spaniards to take it easy on the ham

Spain’s consumer affairs minister launched a campaign asking Spanish residents to cut back on their meat consumption.

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Man surrounded by ham hocks in Spanish grocery
Photo: Marcelo del Pozo / Stringer (Getty Images)

I’ve written before about the terror I have wrought on the people of Spain. As a high-energy college student, I stampeded through cobblestone alleys, performed Evel Knievel–style stunts in public plazas, and approached the nightlife scene with the kind of gyration typically reserved for an electrocuted banshee. But my real reign of destruction took place in the Museo del Jamón, a popular eatery, bar, and charcuterie shop serving itty-bitty beers, tapas, and gleaming piles of Jamón Ibérico. When I first laid eyes on the place, I sprinted a lap around a nearby fountain, screaming “HAM MUSEUM” at the top of my lungs. But while ham is a Spanish staple, Spain’s consumer affairs minister is all but begging Spanish residents to cut back on their meat consumption.

The Guardian reports that consumer affairs minister Alberto Garzón recently launched a campaign inviting Spaniards to consider reducing their meat consumption for both environmental and personal health reasons. In a video, Garzón pointed out that Spain eats more meat than any other EU country, slaughtering around 70 million animals a year so the average Spaniard can consume more than two pounds of meat each week. “Our health and the health of our families is at stake,” Garzón said in the video. “Eating too much meat is bad for our health and for the planet.”

And while Garzón’s video didn’t necessarily make any demands—it was more of a friendly suggestion, really—other Spanish officials aren’t taking it well. Luis Planas, the minister for agriculture, fishing and food, told Cadena Ser radio that he resented the “profoundly unfair criticisms” of the farming sector. Garzón also received an open letter from six meat-producing associations decrying the campaign that “defamed” an industry that accounts for 2.5 million Spanish jobs.

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Poor Garzón. He seems to be fighting a losing battle even though, as Garzón points out in the video, a lot of traditional Spanish dishes (gazpacho, tortilla española, and meatless garbanzo stew, to name a few) are already meat-free. “Give those a go and you’ll be doing yourself and the planet a favor,” Garzón said in the video. Only time will tell if Garzón’s campaign will have an effect on the average Spaniard’s jamón consumption.