New Report: Tax Meat to Help the Planet and Public Health – and Animals

Posted by on November 24, 2015 | Permalink

A new report from think tank Chatham House urges governments to curb climate change by taxing pollution-causing meat products.

Should meat be taxed?

We’re all for it – it’s a sensible idea that we’ve long advocated.

The livestock sector accounts for a huge 15 per cent of global greenhouse-gas emissions and generates pollution at every stage of production: the energy needed to make animal feed, methane and other gasses emitted by the animals themselves, oil to run the lorries that take them to slaughter and the massive amounts of waste and slurry generated by factory farms.

Meat car climate change

Reducing the amount of meat that we eat could play a huge role in stopping climate change, delivering 25 per cent of the emissions cuts needed to prevent warming above 2 degrees C, according to the report. Yet for too long, this issue has been ignored by political leaders. As environmentalist George Monbiot wrote in The Guardian this week:

So why is hardly anyone talking about the cow, pig, sheep and chicken in the room? Why are there no government campaigns to reduce the consumption of animal products, just as they sometimes discourage our excessive use of electricity?

Of course, eating less meat also helps animals, who suffer unimaginably by the billions so that humans can consume their flesh.

According to studies, a “carbon tax” of £1.76 per kilo on the price of beef could reduce consumption by 14 per cent, which would certainly be a step in the right direction. The money generated could be used to subsidise foods with a lower carbon footprint. The report also suggests, quite rightly, that schools, hospitals and prisons should also shift towards more meat-free meals.

Such policies would also encourage people to make healthier choices by swapping meat for healthy fruit and vegetables. Eating meat is linked to some of the UK’s most serious illnesses, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

As Chatham House report author Laura Wellesley put it:

Reducing meat consumption is a real win-win for health and the climate. As governments look for strategies to close the Paris emissions gap quickly and cheaply, dietary change should be high on the list.

Other products known to be harmful to health, such as cigarettes and alcohol, are already taxed. And like those products, meat is not a necessity – the UK’s tens of thousands of happy, healthy vegans demonstrate that there’s no need to eat meat or animal products at all.

While we’re keeping our fingers crossed that governments will listen to the evidence and start to take real action to help animals, the planet and public health by taxing meat, we don’t need to wait for the politicians in order to make positive changes in our own lives. As individuals, we all have the choice to stop eating meat.