Germany's considering a new tax on meat — but it might not be a model for Democrats who want Americans to eat fewer hamburgers
· German politicians are considering raising taxes on meat to boost animal welfare, fight climate change, and improve human health.
· Progressive politicians support raising the VAT on meat from 7% to 19% — the level at which all other foods are taxed. Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right party says its open to some sort of tax.
· Environmental advocates say the issue is unavoidable: humans must reduce their animal product consumption in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
· "If we want to have even a small chance of avoiding dangerous levels of climate change ... then we have to change the way we eat," one expert told Insider.
· But farmers' advocates and some animal welfare groups say the tax would hurt farmers, do little to promote better conditions for animals, and would disproportionately impact low-income consumers.
· Meanwhile, sales of plant-based meat alternatives are surging across Europe and the US — and some say investing in these foods is a better way forward.
· In the US, Republicans have accused Democrats of wanting to ban hamburgers after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested she'd like to "get rid" of cows to fight climate change.
· Experts say a meat tax is politically unthinkable in the US today, and suggest a series of other measures to reduce meat consumption, including reducing agricultural subsidies.
Eliza Relman, Business Insider
Sep 16, 2019
BERLIN, Germany — Paul Pollinger hadn't thought much about the ethics of eating animals until he was 25.
That's when he watched the film "Earthlings," a graphic 2005 documentary about animal cruelty and exploitation. His reaction: "This cannot happen in a civilized world."
Shortly after, the Berlin-based musician and consultant became a vegan. But it was his wife, Sarah Pollinger, who came up with the idea to start a vegan meat shop several years later.
In 2017, the couple opened Vetzgerei, a meatless "butcher" in Berlin's trendy Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, where young families shop at Veganz, Europe's first vegan supermarket chain, and sip oat milk lattes at the meatless cafes that line its leafy streets.
Germany has one of the highest rates of vegetarianism and veganism in the Western world. The ethical eating movement has picked up steam in recent years and is increasingly tied to the movement against climate change.
The coutry's rate of meat consumption has fallen every year since 2011 and this year, Germans listed environmental issues as their top concern in a national poll in May.
But Germans — like Americans — still consume way more meat than what's considered healthy or sustainable for the planet.
So politicians are now considering raising taxes on meat products. The goal is to improve animal welfare by using the revenue to help farmers upgrade their facilities, and to fight climate change and boost Germans' health by incentivizing less meat consumption.
The idea — first proposed by Germany's Animal Welfare Association — would lift the VAT on meat from 7% to 19%, the rate at which all other food is taxed. Just like the "sin tax" on alcohol, cigarettes, and plastic bags, meat would be taxed for its negative externalities.
While environmental activists say a meat tax is inevitable given the agricultural industry's outsized carbon footprint and Germany's Paris Climate Accord goals, advocates for both farmers and animals are taking issue with it.
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A regressive tax? ...
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