Will a meat tax help us meet climate goals?

 
 According to the initiative, a meat tax "looks probable" as a means of encouraging more plant-based eating and curbing global greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the initiative, a meat tax "looks probable" as a means of encouraging more plant-based eating and curbing global greenhouse gas emissions.

There are few things as stereotypically American as loving meat and hating taxes. But as climate change threatens our communities and environment, American priorities are changing.  According to a new press release from the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR), a tax on meat may be on the horizon.  

FAIRR is an investor information initiative that was created to study how the Paris Agreement would affect global agricultural markets long-term. Animal agriculture accounts for a significant percentage of global greenhouse emissions, so this sector offers a lot of opportunity to cut back on unnecessarily high land and resource use. The report relies on research from Oxford University, where Dr. Marco Springman, Senior Researcher on Environmental Sustainability and Public Health, says a meat tax “would send a strong signal that dietary change towards more healthy and sustainable plant-based diets is urgently needed to preserve both our health and the environment.”

 Animal agriculture makes up over half of the total greenhouse gases produced by the entire agricultural sector.

Animal agriculture makes up over half of the total greenhouse gases produced by the entire agricultural sector.

If policymakers are to cover the true cost of livestock... then a shift from subsidization to taxation of the meat industry looks inevitable.
— Jeremy Coller, Founder of the FAIRR Initiative

In addition to environmental concerns, FAIRR also considers the negative effect of meat on public health, namely the rise of obesity, diabetes, and cancer and the increase of healthcare costs associated with those medical conditions. While some countries, like Canada, are pushing plant-based eating through their national dietary guidelines, a recent report highlights the gap between dietary suggestions and actual meat consumption. In fact, global meat consumption has been on the rise since 1992, and is expected to grow. That’s why some wealthier countries have begun discussions for a meat tax to achieve national environmental and public health goals.

Such countries include Denmark and Sweden, two of the first countries to legislate a tax on carbon. The FAIRR report points to the success of widespread taxation on other goods known to harm public health and the environment, such as tobacco, alcohol, and sugar. However, we have a long way to go in America, as we currently allocate $38 billion of tax dollars in subsidies to animal agriculture.  

Takeaway: All discussions about a meat tax have been met with heavy industry opposition, and there is no current legislation in the U.S. or elsewhere that proposes a “levy on livestock”.  This will likely be a hot topic of debate in the next 5 to 10 years, and the rise of clean meat may ease the transition to sustainable protein.  Show your support for a healthy, sustainable future by shopping for plant-based alternatives of animal-based staples.