After urging countries to consider livestock emissions ahead of the COP23 climate change talks, Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR Initiative) is recommending a tax be placed on meat. Why? Well, a new analysis from FAIRR argues that meat should be taxed to curb consumption and consequently help lower greenhouse gas emissions.
As the report notes, over 180 jurisdictions currently tax tobacco, over 60 tax carbon, and at least 25 tax sugar, concluding that meat is on the same path as these other goods that already have taxes.
“Behavioral 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,” Jeremy Coller, CIO of Coller Capital and Founder of the FAIRR Initiative, noted.
Coller certainly hits the damage caused by industrial animal agriculture right on the head. Industrially produced meat and dairy products account for 23 percent of global freshwater consumption and 45 percent of the total land use. Industrial animal agriculture is also one of the largest drivers of global deforestation, as more space is needed to graze cattle and grow feed for livestock. If rates of deforestation continue, there likely won’t be any rainforests left in the next 100 years. FURTHER, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that industrial animal agriculture is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organizations like the Worldwatch Institute have estimated it could be as much as 51 percent (and these numbers are projected to grow as more and more developing countries shift to a Western diet that revolves around the consumption of animal products).
Yet, many consumers are completely unaware of the impact the burgers and steaks they buy every day have on the planet. Suffice it to say, a tax on meat is long overdue considering the immensely destructive environmental impact.
Now, the idea of putting a tax on meat for behavioral reasons isn’t the only argument that could be made for implementing such a practice. Countries around the world have started setting up regulations for major companies contributing to greenhouse emissions with carbon taxes. Many countries, including Sweden, China, Ireland, India, and Australia have adopted a carbon tax. Finland put a price on carbon in the 1990s and now over 30 percent of their energy comes from renewable, sustainable sources. When an Irish citizen purchases a car, there is a tax to account for the carbon emissions. This might sound inconvenient, but since 2008, Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions have dropped by 15 percent.
While these examples might focus on fossil fuels and transportation, when you consider industrial animal agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all global transportation combined, it would follow that factory farms should also fall under these taxes. In fact … countries such as Denmark and Sweden have gone a step further and has already proposed a meat tax.
The FAIRR report goes on to highlight recent University of Oxford research that estimate if animal proteins were cut out entirely from global diets, $1.5 trillion would be saved in health and environmental costs by 2050. If there was a shift to plant-based diets by 2050, $600 billion in climate damages and $1 trillion in healthcare costs could be saved.
While a meat tax on the world’s most destructive industries is certainly welcomed, consumers are ultimately responsible for making climate-friendly choices on their own. The more we know about the impact of factory farms on the environment and animals, we are faced with a choice – either buy into this destructive industry – or we choose better. We’re glad to know that meat taxes might be coming down the pipeline, but we all need to act as soon as possible to stave off the most dire impacts of climate change.
To learn more about the environmental impact of our food choices as well as trends and developments in the plant-based food space, check out our podcast #EatForThePlanet with Nil Zacharias.
Interested in learning more about the economics of factory farming? Check out this recent episode featuring David Simon:
Image Source: Bhakti2/Pixabay