MADRID (AP) — A spat over factory farming is causing tension in Spain's left-of-center coalition government, with the farm minister on Tuesday describing the consumer minister's criticism of the country's livestock industry as "very unfortunate."
Consumer Minister Alberto Garzón told British newspaper The Guardian in an interview last month that intensive cattle production is "unsustainable," damages the environment and produces poor quality produce.
"They find a village in a depopulated bit of Spain and put in 4,000, or 5,000 or 10,000 head of cattle," Garzón was quoted as saying. "They pollute the soil, they pollute the water and then they export this poor-quality meat from these ill-treated animals."
Garzón belongs to the United We Can party, which is the junior partner with the Socialist party in Spain's two-year-old coalition government.
Garzón's comments set off a storm, with representatives of the livestock industry and opposition parties demanding his resignation.
Farm Minister Luis Planas said Tuesday he regretted the controversy over an important national industry. He said Spain is the European Union's fourth-largest livestock and meat exporter.
He told Onda Cero radio that government ministers normally consult with each other before taking a stance on national issues that overlap between them, adding that Garzón hadn't approached him before the newspaper interview.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has also stood up for the livestock sector, while second deputy prime minister Yolanda Díaz — the senior member of United We Can in the coalition — urged her colleagues to weigh their words carefully and "take care" of the coalition.
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