If Meat’s What For Dinner Tonight, Pay Up! Calls For A Meat Tax Gain Momentum


by Carolyn Fortuna, CleanTechnica

January 7th, 2019


Recent calls for a meat tax reflect growing concerns about holding those most responsible for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of all kinds accountable. In the same way that in the past year, state and local governments across the US have launched a new wave of litigation seeking to hold fossil fuel companies liable for damages caused by climate change, so, too, have an increasing number of individuals, researchers, and organizations called for a meat tax due to the environmental deterioration caused by cattle rearing and associated meat consumption.


A late 2018 editorial in the New Statesman America has reinvigorated arguments to call out the animal husbandry industry for its devastating environmental and other impacts. “Not only would Britain be gently nudged in a healthier direction but the UK could see a 17% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions,” Sam Pugh argues. He adds that, with the Paris Agreement on climate goal of global average temperatures well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and even to increases to 1.5°C, introducing a meat tax would position the UK alongside Denmark and Sweden as committed and leading nations in halting climate change.


The food system is responsible for more than a quarter of all GHG emissions, of which up to 80% are associated with livestock production. The aggregate dietary decisions we make have a large influence on climate change. Support for a meat tax is based on “considerate, progressive, and evidence-based policy” that is an essential step forward to offset the negative outcomes from meat consumption. Let’s just say it: people who follow plant-based diets have smaller environmental footprints. Adopting sustainable eating habits can help reduce GHG emissions, water consumption, and land used for factory farming, which are all factors in global warming and environmental degradation


It is a tax which all Western nations, including the US, should consider.


Meat as Agent of Environmental Degradation


  “Greater eaters of meat are in general more cruel and ferocious than other men.”

  —  Jean-Jacques Rousseau —


Let’s just say it: people who follow plant-based diets have smaller environmental footprints. Adopting sustainable eating habits can help reduce GHG emissions, water consumption, and land used for factory farming, which are all factors in global warming and environmental degradation. Animal agriculture is water-intensive and space-inefficient. Over the next 3 decades, meat consumption is projected to increase by 75%. This data is based in part on research from the University of Oxford, where the food policy researcher Marco Springmann and colleagues calculated that eliminating animal protein from the global food system would save $1.6 trillion in environmental costs by 2050.


Springmann, et al., determined that including the social health cost of red and processed meat consumption in the price of red and processed meat could lead to significant health and environmental benefits, in particular in high and middle-income countries. The lead researcher explained in a press statement that taxing meat “would send a strong signal that dietary change toward more healthy and sustainable plant-based diets is urgently needed to preserve both our health and the environment.”


To assess the health and environmental effects, the Oxford researchers modeled 4 different dietary scenarios for the year 2050:


·         a ‘business as usual’ scenario based on projections of future diets

·         a scenario based on global dietary guidelines which includes minimum amounts of fruits and vegetables, and limits to the amount of red meat, sugar, and total calories

·         vegetarian and vegan scenarios which both conform to the dietary guidelines


The result? Adopting global dietary guidelines would cut food-related emissions by 29%, vegetarian diets by 63%, and vegan diets by 70%, the study concludes. The researchers state that transitioning toward more plant-based diets that are in line with standard dietary guidelines could reduce food-related GHG emissions by 29–70%, compared with a reference scenario in 2050.


Without a real effort to reduce meat in everyday diets, projected GHG emissions increase by 51% in the Springmann study. Dietary changes toward less animal-sourced foods decrease the reference GHG emissions by 29–70%. Indeed, that percentage is likely to be a conservative estimate once the beneficial impacts of dietary change on land use through avoided deforestation are taken into account.


Investor Network Opinion Points to Likelihood of a Meat Tax


  “Not eating meat is a decision, eating meat is an instinct.”

 — Denis Leary, comedian —


Established by the Jeremy Coller Foundation, the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) Initiative is a collaborative investor network that raises awareness of the material environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities caused by intensive livestock production. FAIRR believes that intensive livestock production poses material risks to the global financial system and hinders sustainable development. Their mission is to build a global network of investors who are focused and engaged on the risks and opportunities linked to intensive livestock production.


FAIRR commissioned a 2017 private report which determined it is becoming “increasingly probable” that the implementation of the Paris Agreement will lead some governments to tax meat in the same way many now tax sugar, carbon, and tobacco.


Noting that livestock farming generates more emissions than all the world’s planes, trains, and cars combined, The Livestock Levy found that that animal protein products are on a similar trajectory to goods such as tobacco, carbon, and sugar. In all these cases, the path to taxation was initiated by a global consensus around the negative impacts to society, followed by an assessment of financial costs to the public and, finally, support for some form of additional behavioral tax...


Danish Council on Ethics: It’s Time to Implement a Meat Tax ...


Other Countries Consider a Meat Tax ...


Health Considerations of our Daily Meat ...


Final Thoughts ...


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