More Taxes Please!

Posted by on May 5, 2010 | Permalink

With pressure mounting as the 6th May General Election grows ever nearer, there’s a great deal of conflicting opinion about which tax proposals will help restore Britain’s failing economy. However, all the proposals I’ve seen have failed to include the one tax I would love to see introduced: an excise duty on meat, milk and eggs. Taxing “flesh foods” and animal secretions will help save animals, halt climate change and other environmental problems and reduce the crippling costs of meat consumption that burden the National Health Service.

Consumers already pay taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and petrol in an effort to help offset their health and environmental costs, but even though meat is a leading cause of climate change and environmental degradation and is a known health hazard, it has so far gotten off tax-free.

Scientists, policymakers and the public now recognise that significant and urgent action must be taken to halt climate change. Increasingly, the most clear-sighted scientists agree that unless people dramatically reduce their consumption of animal-derived products, we won’t be able to make a meaningful dent in the climate crisis. A tax on meat, eggs and dairy foods would encourage people to start making that transition.

A 2006 United Nations report concluded that the livestock industry is “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global”. A more recent study, “Livestock and Climate Change”, which was published by the Worldwatch Institute, estimates that raising animals for food produces approximately 51 per cent of all greenhouse-gas emissions. Lord Stern, author of the Stern Report, put it most simply: “Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world’s resources. A vegetarian diet is better”.

A tax on meat, eggs and dairy foods would work alongside other measures currently being promoted to help slow climate change, such as encouraging the use of renewable energy, reducing emissions from transport and installing better insulation in homes. It certainly doesn’t make sense to consider any other incentives for going green whilst ignoring the obvious, which is that going vegan is the single most important choice we can make to help fight against climate change.

As if the devastating impact that meat, egg and dairy production has on the environment isn’t reason enough for adopting a vegan diet, we know that these foods are the largest sources of saturated fat in our diets which contributes directly to our deadliest diseases. Every year, millions of Britons get sick and die from preventable cases of heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity, hypertension and diabetes – all of which have been proven by numerous studies to be associated with meat consumption. A meat tax would bring more fairness to the tax system by making people contribute more for their treatment if they choose to consume products that put them at greater risk of disease. At a time when we are shutting down A&E departments up and down the country as a result of mounting budget constraints, a meat tax is a fair and logical way to pay back into our overextended Health Service.

We were able to overcome the enormous political influence of the tobacco and alcohol companies in order to tax their products. Now it’s time to protect British consumers and the environment from the negative impact of meat, eggs and dairy foods.

Considering that animals are forced to pay the ultimate price for these products, people who consume them should at the very least have to pay a few more pence for that choice. By introducing this tax, the government would give people yet another incentive to choose vegan foods, helping to save animals, the environment and maybe even some human lives.