7th December 2023
Laura, 32, and Roberto, 19, were a bit nervous when they arrived at Málaga. Both are members of the Spanish ecological group Futuro Vegetal, and they were to interrupt an international sports event. Even though they knew it could have huge consequences, they said they would do it again: "I would do it again until the Government heard our demand because my life and my loved ones depend upon it. They stopped for a quick lunch before heading off to the tennis stadium; it was better to have something in the stomach as they were unsure when they would have a chance to eat again. They had chains, sprays, and banners in their bag, but they could get into the stadium without trouble. "We want to shout out that our food system is economically and ecologically unsustainable. It drives us to draughts, desertification, and contamination and risks our future.”
Futuro Vegetal interrupted tennis Davis Cup Spain – Croatia match by jumping into the field and shouting their slogans. «Jumping was easy,» Laura remembers, «but security came for us so quickly. We only could be there for a couple of minutes. Afterwards, they held them until they were sure nothing else was going to happen and informed them they would receive a fine.»
Looking backwards, the activists are satisfied with the action and the media response. When the group began doing non-violent actions, the general public was quite critical, but now they empathise more, the activists think. «(The people) realise that if we risk so much, it is because we are really concerned.»
Last year’s production was bad, and this one has begun with all the water reservoirs at minimum levels. 80% of the freshwater is used in agriculture; the other 20% is industry and human consumption. And ironically, 60% of cereal, the most extended crop in Spain, is for animal food. The agricultural organisation COAG warns that the sector loses more than 550m€ yearly.
Futuro Vegetal Co-founder and Climate migrant
Bilbo Bassaterra is 30 years old and originally from Cádiz (Southern Spain). He is a co-founder of Futuro Vegetal and calls himself a climate migrant. «When I understood our climate situation and the forecast in Andalusia, I left. Currently, two-thirds of the region is under desert climate conditions, and the policies don’t help; we just need to take Doñana as an example,» he complains.
Futuro Vegetal is a non-violent civil disobedience movement that fights to reach resilience against the climate crisis. Its main demand is to push food security and sovereignty through a change in the farming system. It’s under the XR umbrella, and they have a horizontal and decentralised structure with independent groups which take decisions through consensus. They demand to stop funding livestock farming with public money and use it to push a just transition towards a plant-based solution. They calculate the industry received 430€ millions the last year.
«It makes sense other groups, such as Just Stop Oil in the UK, focus on the energy sector, but we are the European farm, we have no water, and according to the forecast we will need to double it in 8 or 10 years», says Bassaterra. The current grants model pushes towards an industrial model far from extensive farming practices. «Furthermore, even if a small exploitation can manage to go ahead, they will deal with big food groups that control the market and mark prices.»
To support their demands, they do this sort of disruptive actions and be in the media. They explain that they didn’t choose Davis Cup for any reason apart from being an international event with huge sponsors. «Our target is not to make friends; it is to make the Government take the right decisions», recalls the activist. It was their logic when they got into Museo del Prado before COP27 to glue themselves to major Goya’s Paintings. However, they had a particular interest in this event as Carlos Alcaraz, tennis player Nº1, is sponsored by El Pozo, one of the biggest meat companies in Spain.
The action in Málaga was quick. Nonetheless, Bassaterra comments on how much the media cover this event compared with the one in EL Prado. It seemed almost as if those big sponsor companies tried to silence the press.
Currently, Futuro Vegetal is trying to set up independent local groups. They have common guidelines, but the groups are free to do what they think is necessary. So, Bassaterra doesn’t know what will happen in the next few months, «anything can happen anywhere», he smiles, «but I can guarantee many people are looking forward to doing things. We have no idea what can be, but people talk and plan.»
In Spain, 80% of the food is animal-based, which is utterly against the IPCC recommendation to change west food style to face the climate crisis. A not-to-far future forces us to change the XX-century model that had endless resources. We all need to consume food daily, so it is something we can not leave behind.