Vegetarians gaining ground in carnivorous Argentina


By Debora Rey, Associated Press

Sep 3, 2019


BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A fight is on over the Argentine identity, pitting a growing number of vegetarians and vegans against meat-eaters in a country known for its abundant beef, gaucho cowboys and sacred “asado” barbecues.


The weekend “asados” bring together families and friends and are a source of national pride in this South American country, which traditionally battles neighboring Uruguay for world leader in per-capita beef consumption. But this carnivorousness is being threatened by rising support for vegetarianism and veganism among Argentines, particularly the young and millennials, and growing militancy by activists.


A recent private online questionnaire found that six of every 10 Argentines are disposed to stop eating beef, a figure that alarmed ranchers who are already struggling through an economic crisis. The cultural divide came to a head several weeks ago when anti-animal cruelty activists interrupted an exhibition of the Buenos Aires Rural Society and were met by ranchers, some dressed in traditional gaucho outfits, who charged at them on horses with whips.


The younger generations “have grown up amid the debate over abortion in Congress; inclusion, gender equality ... These collective questions have started to gain weight in decisions about the purchase of foods,” said Adrián Bifaretti, head of marketing at the Institute for the Promotion of Beef and author of the online survey and focus group that found a widespread readiness to give up beef. Bifaretti said the findings are based on doing a survey of 1,100 people every two months in a poll with a margin of error of three percentage points.


A July report by Argentina’s Chamber of Commerce for Beef and its Derivatives said Argentines are consuming on average 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of beef a year, what it called the lowest level in the history of this country, where cattle brought by the Spanish centuries ago thrived on vast prairies knows as pampas.


“This concern about cruelty and the slaughter is here and is going to be felt,” Bifaretti said, adding that trends seen in other parts of the world are arriving in Argentina. “It is starting to be a challenge.”


Much of the anti-beef activism comes from vegans.


Lying on the grass, Melisa Lobo stroked the snout of Apollo, a weeks-old black calf about the size of a Labrador dog. Nearby, goats, sheep, chickens and ducks roamed and socialized at “Wild Sanctuary,” two hectares (nearly five acres) of land an hour from Buenos Aires.


“In the sanctuary, animals live out their entire lives,” said Lobo, a 28-year-old vegan, who calls each of the 300 animals in the sanctuary by name, except for the chickens “because they are all very similar”...