Being Australian, I’m used to taxes. Everything is taxed in Australia. “Oh, you want to buy a case of beer? You’d better sell your car.” That said, I think people have a few pennies to spare for just one more important tax.
Yes. Don’t you think? The UN have already made it perfectly clear that the current rate at which we are eating meat will be unsustainable by 2050, with the projected population growth worldwide (1). I will only be 61 years old (and hopefully still kicking) – this isn’t really the long-term future we’re talking about. The report also stated that a global shift towards a vegan diet will not only allow for farming of more sustainable and efficient crops to help fight poverty, but also help to reduce the effects of climate change.
There has been much controversy over the recently implemented “carbon tax” in Australia; a tax put in place aiming to reduce greenhouse gases by essentially making businesses pay for their CO2 emissions. The Australian meat industry greatly opposed the tax, saying that it would result in abattoir shutdowns and job losses, as these businesses would not be able to lower their carbon emissions to below the threshold to avoid the tax.
BUT SURELY THAT’S THE POINT OF THE TAX?! To me, (possibly biased and horribly naive) it indicates just how unsustainable the farming of meat as it is currently carried out is. Practices that aren’t sustainable, or are downright damaging to the environment, need to be abolished or at the very least taxed. That said, maybe it is too much too soon. Carbon pricing in Australia has been under much scrutiny and perhaps isn’t the ideal solution to discouraging unsustainable meat production. In that case – why not just tax the meat itself, in the supermarket? In restaurants? Everywhere. Surely that would mean that buying meat just becomes less desirable, people start to seek other alternatives, and slowly, very slowly, farming culture may begin to change as demand increases for alternatives to meat. It could even be designed so that certified free-range products were taxed at a lower rate, though this would mean that the “free-range” meat industry would need to be incredibly well regulated. The fact is, something has to change, and people aren’t just going to stop eating meat on their own.
Difficult as it is for me to accept, I’m not the first person to come up with this revolutionary concept (I’m probably not even the millionth). Earlier this year, the Swedish Agricultural Board proposed a tax on meat as meat production puts a strain on the environment (2). Unfortunately, the proposal was not implemented, as “people should decide for themselves what they want in their refrigerator.” Yes, of course they should, but they should also have to pay a price which reflects the real cost of producing that item.
Of course, PETA have also been vocal in calling for a meat tax (3). As well as the environmental costs, they argue that cigarettes and alcohol are taxed because of their eventual cost to the health system, and that meat should be the same. As levels of obesity and heart disease skyrocket worldwide (4), it’s hard to disagree with them. And, as atmospheric carbon pollution is now higher than ever (5), it seems like the time is ripe to tax meat for the taxing effect it is having on our health and our planet.