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By Esther Vivas
A report by Friends of the Earth indicates that the average number of kilometers that food travels from field to table is more than five thousand, with the consequent environmental impact. If we count that some of these products come from close by, it means that others come from far away. But the most paradoxical thing is that an important part of them can be found produced, also, at the local level. Why, then, do we consume them from such remote places? Low wages, union persecution, flexible environmental legislation in many southern countries that provides significant benefits to companies in the sector are the answer. That this model generates greenhouse gases, labor exploitation and low quality food, it seems that it does not matter.
If we analyze the Christmas menu, we realize that a good number of the products we consume have traveled thousands of kilometers before reaching the table. Prawns, common at this time of year, are a good example. Most come from the Latin American or Asian tropics. In addition to the long journey to our tables, its production has a very negative social impact (poverty wages and systematic use of chemicals and antibiotics to conserve them) and environmental (destruction of the seabed by trawling and mangroves cut down to build fish farms) . The Spanish State is the main importer of prawns in the European Union.
The pineapple has become, in recent times, another of the party classics, but three-quarters of those sold in Europe come from Costa Rica. A few plantations and multinationals monopolize production and impose extremely precarious working conditions. A Consumers International report indicates that its workers have considerable health problems due to the massive use of agrochemicals and the organization of the workforce is practically non-existent due to the anti-union policy of the companies.
Even a food as typical as the end of the year grape comes, mainly, from Chile. If before there were local varieties with a late maturation, such as the Christmas grape, today most of what we consume at this time comes from the other side of the planet. Or if for Christmas we eat melon with ham, we no longer do it of the Christmas melon variety, but we end up buying products that have been kept for months in cold stores, where they have lost many properties, or that come from as far away as South America.
Roast chicken, stuffed or capon are other typical dishes. The consumption of meat, they tell us, is essential in these festivals. A Catalan song already tells it: "Ara ve Nadal, kill the gall and aunt Pepa li donarem a tall" (Christmas is coming, we will kill the cock and we will give Aunt Pepa a piece). My grandfather used to do it every December 25, but instead of the rooster he killed a hen from his henhouse. Today, however, we consume animals fattened with transgenic feed with thousands of kilometers behind them, which are preventively injected with high doses of drugs and raised in intensive production farms, scattered around the world, where they are treated as "things" and violate their rights. And let's not talk about the foie gras, served in Christmas starters, or how it is prepared.
The kilometric foods have become part of our daily diet. Food loaded with injustice to people, animals and the environment. The alternative lies in local, ecological consumption, without animal exploitation, peasant, proximity, on a small scale. Let's bet on critical consumption both at Christmas and 365 days a year.