Spanish towns where pigs outnumber locals

Pigs outnumber locals

Many residents of villages in the province of Cuenca have around 10 pigs per inhabitant. And not because they are all farmers, but because they live surrounded by large pig farms which, far from bringing wealth and jobs to many of these municipalities, are causing serious damage to their already battered populations.

According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture contained in a report prepared last year by Ecologists in Action, the number of pigs in Castilla-La Mancha has increased by 20%, to over 1.7 million head. However, they point out, “there is no land-use plan to regulate the installation of these farms and, therefore, the growth of the sector is in private hands that impose their interests, deploying facilities at their convenience without environmental or social criteria”.

“There is an environmental disaster in the province of Cuenca particularly contamination of aquifers,” says Carlos Villeta, a member of Ecologistas en Acción in Cuenca. “There is also social and economic disaster: the bubble is at risk of bursting, leading to the ruin of many small farmers.

In Cuenca, more than 450,000 animals are fattened per year (more than double the number of inhabitants). According to ministerial data, more than 4.3 million pigs were slaughtered in Castilla-La Mancha in 2020, of which 63% were slaughtered in slaughterhouses in Cuenca. This is why many production companies have promoted the construction of new macro-farms all over Cuenca, in order to reduce the cost of transporting the animals.

“We fear for the water of our village”

“This is a struggle we have been fighting for several years,” Toni Jorge, spokesman for Pueblos Vivos Cuenca, one of the platforms that brings together the concerns of the public. “Apart from the bad smells, these projects are polluting the water with slurry from the pig waste. In some cases, such as in the town of Torrejoncillo del Rey, they cannot drink tap water because it exceeds the permitted levels of nitrates”.

Dozens of people took part in a citizens’ protest that the Stop Macrogranjas Platform, part of Pueblos Vivos Cuenca, organised in the municipality of Ledaña to reject the construction of a new macro pig farm in this municipality that will fatten 5,000 pigs per year.

Ledaña, despite being in an area classified as vulnerable to nitrate pollution by the Junta de Comunidades de Castilla La Mancha, already has a large pig farm with a capacity of 7,200 pigs, so that, if the new application is approved, it would reach 9,200 head of pigs.

Pueblos Vivos stresses that to this situation must be added the more than 567,000 head of poultry. In other words, this municipality would have a ratio of 6 pigs and 363 chickens per inhabitant. According to Pueblos Vivos, this facility will generate 4,300 cubic metres of slurry, 14.4 tonnes of nitrogen, 18.2 tonnes of methane released into the air, and it is estimated that it will consume 7 million litres of water per year.

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Written by

Kevin Fraser Park

Kevin was born in Scotland and worked in marketing, running his own businesses in UK, Italy and, for the last 8 years, here in Spain. He moved to the Costa del Sol in 2016 working initially in real estate. He has a passion for literature and particularly the English language which is how he got into writing.


    • Wietse Haak

      30 October 2023 • 15:57

      The picture that joins this story is very misleading! It looks like they are ok, which they are NOT! Factory farming is a disgusting way of fattening pigs and they suffer immensely. I wish you would write some more of the suffering and inhumane ways these extremely intelligent and loving animals are kept.

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