Should Meat Be Taxed Like Cigarettes?


Researchers revealed that a 20 percent tax on unprocessed red meat and a 110 percent tax on processed red meat, such as bacon and sausages, in wealthier nations and a lower tax in poorer nations would offset annual healthcare costs related to meat consumption in 149 countries. Such taxation would result in an annual savings of $170 billion and has the potential to save 220,000 lives worldwide each year.

Specifically, taxing these items—classified as carcinogenic by the World Health Organization—would decrease the amount of processed meat consumed by affluent nations from an average of one portion per day to two portions per week, leading to an annual savings of $41 billion in healthcare costs.

The study also found that the United States would have to levy a 163 percent tax on processed red meat and a 34 percent tax on unprocessed red meat to recover healthcare costs.

“Nobody wants governments to tell people what they can and can’t eat,” Marco Springmann, lead researcher of the study at the University of Oxford, told The Guardian. “It is totally fine if you want to have [red meat], but this personal consumption decision really puts a strain on public funds. It is not about taking something away from people, it is about being fair.”

It makes perfect sense to tax meat. Raising and killing animals for food is destroying our planet and meat consumption kills millions of people each year and costs billions in healthcare expenses. By taxing animal products as so many governments already do other harmful products, like cigarettes, we could decrease consumption and save lives, money, and the planet.

A 2015 study by U.K. think tank Chatham House suggested that because meat is dangerous for human health and the planet, governments should tax it. The study shows 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, they will eventually accept the need for such a measure.

But getting people to eat fewer animal products isn’t just good for public health and the planet; it also spares countless animals a lifetime of misery at factory farms. Cows, pigs, and chickens raised and killed for food are just as smart and sensitive as the dogs and cats we adore at home. But at factory farms, animals are subjected to unimaginable cruelties: intensive confinement, agonizing mutilations, and violent deaths.

See for yourself.


While it’s frustrating that our leaders often overlook the cruelty and destruction associated with factory farming and meat consumption, you’re not powerless. You can join the millions of people taking a stand by switching to a compassionate vegan diet. Order your FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide today. And check out our Pinterest page for thousands of recipe ideas!