Should We Tax Meat?

A recent report by Chatham House explored the possibility of a meat tax to decrease meat consumption and increase consumer awareness of how their diets directly affect the planet.

According to the report, the public is largely unaware of the link between climate change and dietary choices. “There is a considerable awareness gap around the links between livestock, diet and climate change. While awareness-raising alone will not be sufficient to effect dietary change, it will be crucial to ensuring the efficacy of the range of government policy interventions required, it explains.

It’s important for policymakers to emphasize the other benefits of eating less meat, like losing weight or reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes, or some types of cancer. A tax could also be coupled with other policies to make sure that people with lower incomes could still afford to buy a healthy amount.

In 2006, the UN reported that animal agriculture, particularly meat and dairy production, accounted for 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to exhaust emissions from all the vehicles in the world. Laura Wellesley, a research associate at Chatham House, said, “[T]his is a huge opportunity for effective climate action that is being overlooked. It’s a real untapped reserve of action.”

Focus groups reveal that resistance to a meat tax would be short-lived like resistance to cigarette taxes. People may balk initially, but provided the government offers a clear rationale, will eventually accept the need for such a measure.

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