Spain records more pigs than people for first time ever

Spain is being forced to consider the environmental impact of its most famous product as figures show there are now more pigs in Spain than people.

Spain records more pigs than people for first time ever
Iberian pigs graze on acorns and fruit in an paddock in Jabugo, Huelva. Photo: AFP

A report produced for the Environment ministry has revealed that in 2017, the number of pigs slaughtered for pork products exceeded 50 million, 3.5 million more than the 46.5 million human population of Spain

Spain has seen a surge in pork production over the last five years to meet a growing export demand from China, the report found.

READ MORE: Spain's 'jamon' conquers China

File photo: Subbotina/Depositphotos

Of the 4.3 million tons of pork meat produced last year – 20 percent more than in 2012 – only a quarter is eaten within Spain, where each Spaniard consumes an average of 21kg of pork annually.

The vision of free-range pigs happily roaming across Spain’s dehesas is in stark contrast with the fact that the majority of pork products comes from factory-farmed animals.

Just a tiny percentage of pork consumed derives from the pure-bred acorn fed Iberian pig that is famous for producing the best jamon serrano.

But although the industry generated a whopping €6 billion last year, concerns are mounting over the detrimental effect of so many pigs on the environment.

Livestock in Spain now generates 10 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, the fourth largest producer after transport, electricity generation and industry. 

Environmentalists have also raised concerns over the strain pig farming places on drought-prone areas of Spain. Each animal consumes 15 litres a day, meaning the industry as a whole uses more water than the cities of Seville, Alicate and Zaragoza combined.

Ground water is also at risk of contamination from nitrates in animal waste, warn NGO Ecologists in Action.

Spain’s environment ministry announced soon after taking office in June, that it was planning new controls on pig farming to improve “hygiene, animal health and welfare and the environment”.

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Photo: AFP



Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

The Freyr battery start-up has halted construction of its Giga Arctic factory and demanded additional government subsidies, Norway's state broadcaster NRK has reported.

Norwegian battery start-up Freyr demands subsidies to complete factory

Jan Arve Haugan, the company’s operations director, told the broadcaster that the company would not order any more equipment until Norway’s government committed to further subsidies. 

“We are holding back further orders for prefabricated steel and concrete pending clarification on further progress,” he said. “We are keen to move forward, but we have to respect that there is a political process going on, and we have expectations that words will be put into action.” 

Freyr in April 2019 announced its plans to build the 17 billion kroner Giga Arctic in Mo i Rana, and has so far received 4 billion kroner in loans and loan guarantees from the Norwegian government. It has already started construction and hopes to complete the build by 2024-2025. 

Haugan said that the enormous subsidies for green industry in the Inflation Reduction Act voted through in the US in 2022 had changed the playing field for companies like Freyr, meaning Norway would need to increase the level of subsidies if the project was to be viable. 

Freyr in December announced plans for Giga America, a $1.3bn facility which it plans to build in Coweta, Georgia.   

“What the Americans have done, which is completely exceptional, is to provide very solid support for the renewable industry,” Haugen said. “This changes the framework conditions for a company like Freyr, and we have to take that into account.” 

Jan Christian Vestre, Norway’s industry minister, said that the government was looking at what actions to take to counter the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act, but said he was unwilling to get drawn into a subsidy battle with the US. 

“The government is working on how to upgrade our instruments and I hope that we will have further clarifications towards the summer,” he said.

“We are not going to imitate the Americans’ subsidy race. We have never competed in Norway to be the cheapest or most heavily subsidised. We have competed on competence, Norwegian labour, clean and affordable energy and being world champions in high productivity.”