After carbon, tobacco and sugar the next global tax could target meat. Some governments are indeed expected to introduce a “livestock levy” that cuts meat consumption from diets to reduce their carbon footprint.
Meat could be the target of the next sin tax – that is an excise tax specifically levied on certain goods deemed harmful to society. Our delicious steaks could suffer the same fate as tobacco, carbon and sugar – which are respectively taxed in 180, 60, and 25 countries around the world. What many consider our birth-given right to do with their bodies what they choose is indeed losing ground against the new trend “to lay taxes for the purpose of providing for the general welfare.” Are living in the age of “behavioural taxes”?
The meat and livestock industries currently cause 15 per cent of all global greenhouse gas emissions according to the Food & Agriculture Organisation. In addition, livestock farming is plays a significant part in deforestation as land is given over to rearing cattle. Estimates suggest that meat and dairy demand will mean agriculture will emit 20 gigatons of emission per year by 2050. These figures are corelated to population growth, but also to the fact that in in countries experiencing rapid economic development, eating meat is regarded as a status symbol.
Experts also point out that a less meat-heavy diet could also significantly improve public health. Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) network ’s founder Jeremy Coller said: “Behavioural taxes are increasingly common. That’s why we’ve seen 16 countries adopt a sugar tax in recent years. The damage the meat industry causes to our health and environment make it very exposed to similar levies, and it is increasingly probable we’ll see meat taxes become a reality.” However, sugar taxes aimed at fighting obesity have faced some resistance. So will probably meat taxes.
“Investors are starting to consider this in a similar way to how they have considered climate risk,” said Rosie Wardle, who manages investor engagements at FAIRR. Earlier this year, a FAIRR white paper highlighted research from the University of Oxford, which found that eliminating meat completely from global diets would save around $1.6 trillion in health and environmental costs by 2050. Reason enough to put the question on the table, some say. Others might as well be ready to fight for their piece of meat.
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