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Environment

A meat tax – could you stomach it?

With meat production contributing 15% of the world’s greenhouse gases, curbing carnivorous diets sounds like a healthy option for the planet. However,  meat consumption shows no signs of slowing down -- convincing people to give up something they love is not easy,

Leaders often cite fears of a consumer backlash as an excuse to avoid introducing a tax that would help reduce the amount of meat people buy. But a recent report across 12 countries suggests these fears are exaggerated. According to research by think-tank Chatham House, consumers would be more willing to pay a tax on meat than governments think. 

Sound appetising? One month on from the climate negotiations in Paris and with many of us still reeling from the delights of a home-cooked Christmas turkey, we want to know what YOU think. Could you stomach a meat tax? Take our poll below. 

Why are we even talking about taxing meat?  

Meat production produces more greenhouse gases than cars, trains, planes and ships combined. These greenhouse gasses are produced via methane emitted by livestock, by the consumption of energy and transportation by farmers, by the destruction of forests for pasture, and by the production of fertiliser for animal feed. Beef is the major culprit here - emissions resulting from beef production are considerably higher than chicken or pork.

It is now widely accepted that we need to stem the world’s growing appetite for meat if we want to stop global warming. Our love of meat combined with population growth means that global meat consumption is on track to increase 75% by 2050, which would make it pretty much impossible to keep global warming below the internationally agreed limit of 2C.

Cutting meat eating to healthy levels is a very low cost way of curbing emissions. And yet little action has been taken to achieve this.

This may be true, but I LOVE MEAT AND DON’T WANT TO GIVE IT UP

It’s ok, stay calm, no one is going to force you to go veggie here. Meat is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals in your diet.

But excessive meat consumption is also linked to rising rates of heart disease and cancer, particularly bowel cancer. Doctors recommend that a healthy level of meat is around 70g a day. If we all heeded this advice, not only would we be healthier, we would also reduce carbon emissions by an amount equivalent to the annual output of the US, the world’s second biggest polluter.

Ok, so what are our options? Do we HAVE to tax meat?

Taxing meat is just one of the ways that would help reduce our meat consumption. Other suggestions include running public information campaigns so that people know about the dangers of eating too much meat, and increasing vegetarian food in schools, hospitals and the armed forces.

Others also propose cutting subsidies to livestock farmers: in 2012, industrialised nations paid a cool 18 billion US dollars in direct subsidies for the beef and veal industry, a further 7.3 billion USD for pig meat and 6.5 billion USD for poultry.

So it’s a no brainer – we need to reduce our meat consumption.

The question is: do we want to?