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Governments are Considering Global Meat Taxes

Writer Ben Dolbear examines advice from a leading US think tank recommending the introduction of a global levy on red meat in an attempt to reduce consumption and fight climate change.

Photo by Alex Azabache

Fitch Solutions Macro Research, a leading macroeconomic analysis group, has suggested that red meat may soon follow sugar in becoming the next target of the 'sin tax' as concerns over climate change grow to record levels.

People are more aware and concerned today about the interrelated issues of climate change, deforestation, and animal cruelty than ever before, meaning that pressure is being put on government's to help reduce global intake of red meat.

Currently, humanity consumes an unsustainable 315 million tonnes of meat, a number that is widely expected to surge to 453 million by 2030, as the Earth's population level increases to well above eight billion. Over-consumption of red meat has several damaging, unintended consequences for the environment, including deforestation on an unprecedented level. Currently, it takes an area of vegetation more than seven times the size of the European Union to produce food for the cattle and livestock consumed in Europe.

The last decade has seen a marked increase of government intervention through taxation of products deemed undesirable for public health, such as cigarettes, alcohol, and sugar, but this newest move against red meat would show a commitment that administrations across the world are serious about the Earth and its future.

Back in May of last year, Fitch Solutions commented that, 'governments could leverage on this demand for more sustainability and tax the consumer instead of implementing stricter environmental production regulations', in a reference to popular action movements against climate change such as Extinction Rebellion (XR), who have also spoken out about the detrimental environmental impacts of the excessive consumption of factory-farmed meat.

Reducing our consumption of red meat has also been linked to lower risk of cancer and heart disease, with a study by University of Oxford researchers finding that a red meat tax could save up to 6,000 British lives annually.

According to a report released by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) last summer, which includes data compiled by more than 100 scientists from 52 countries, our food system accounts for 37% of all greenhouse gas emissions, with the way we use land, including for farming, mining, logging, and raising livestock, accounting for a shocking 23%.

In light of the recommendations by Fitch Solutions, the German parliament has, in the first few days of the new year, dedicated much of its debating time to mulling over the introduction of a meat tax, with one minister saying that such a move could bring in revenue to be spent on improving animal welfare.

At present, Germany taxes meat at 7%, less than half the 19% standard rate on goods. However, increasing the VAT on red meat to the standard rate, according to the Federal Environment Agency, bring in €5.2 billion a year, which could be spent on environmental measures.

Other European nations, particularly Sweden and Denmark, have for the last few years debated the idea of a meat tax, but no country has yet implemented it.

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