Argentina: Vegans in steak paradise

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Ironically, in the country with the “best meat in the world” there are more and more vegans. Animal and climate protection groups in Argentina are increasing the pressure on the meat industry. Trying to save reputation and business.

“Veganism is justice, veganism is equality” is written on the posters that can be seen more and more often in Buenos Aires. “Save the planet and don't eat fish,” reads another. Cleverly placed near schools or access roads to universities in the Argentine capital.

They are visual proof that the vegan climate and animal protection movement has also arrived in the country of what is probably the best meat in the world and are expanding their base want. This poses new challenges for traditional livestock farming. Because the young generation in Argentina is asking more and more questions about how meat production is organized.

Propaganda for vegetarianism and veganism in Buenos Aires – Posters of the vegan movement in Buenos Aires

Growing ecological production

In addition, there is a growing number of small businesses that rely on sustainably and ecologically consciously produced food. Like Pablo Andres Bobadilla Echenique (37): “I'm the first vegetarian in four generations of my family,” the Chubut-born Argentinian told DW.

He farms a piece of land in Pilar, a suburb of the capital. Without resorting to chemically based fertilizers and pesticides, as Bobadilla explains. He does not ride the horse that lives on his property. Because of his family roots, he feels connected to the indigenous way of life and production.

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He criticizes the image that large meat companies in Argentina have built up for themselves: “The companies that own the largest estates are not romantic gauchos who play the guitar and recite Martin Fierro by heart,” says Bobadilla. In fact, these big corporations are responsible for plundering and destroying the countryside through their industrial production using chemical fertilizers. These pesticides and fertilizers are often supplied by international corporations, says Bobadilla.

On the other hand, there is the Argentine culture of “asados” – the cozy family get-together at the barbecue, which often lasts for hours. “It's the ritual of rituals for most Argentines,” Adrian Bifaretti of the Institute for the Promotion of Argentine Beef tells DW.

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“Green water” and no anabolic steroids

However, meat producers have long since noticed the slow cultural change in consumer behavior and are trying to react to the growing vegan movement. “Most of the production occurs on natural pastures and open-air meadows. This means that livestock farming as a system has very low inputs such as fertilizers and agrochemicals. The use of anabolic steroids is banned in the country,” says Bifaretti.

< p> Most of the water used is “green water” according to studies carried out. It comes from rainwater and is naturally recycled in the water cycle. Emissions have dropped significantly since the beginning of the Kyoto commitment (1990).

Pablo Andres Bobadilla Echenique produces sustainably produced food – without meat, of course

Clash of cultures at the agricultural fair

Both sides are now eagerly awaiting the next agricultural fair in Buenos Aires in July. At the last public show before the pandemic, some vegan activists managed a media coup: They stormed the square and made it into the newspapers and TV stations. This made the vegan movement known to a wider audience in Argentina for the first time. TV debates and mutual reproaches followed. The pandemic, which hit Argentina particularly hard, ended the public debate.

But with the end of the corona debate, this topic is back on the agenda. Veganism also combines animal and climate protection issues with discussions about land ownership and social justice. Their demands therefore go beyond those of pure meat ownership: It is also about land restitution to indigenous peoples and access for small farmers, in short about a system change.