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Taxing Meat Could Help Prevent Future Pandemics, New Study Says

A new international study by 22 experts says policymakers should consider taxing meat. The experts argue that taxing animal products could help better protect nature and reduce the risk of future deadly pandemics.

Issued by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, the report points to rising demand for meat as a source of climate change and biodiversity loss. Zoologist Peter Daszak, who led the study, said:

Over-consumption of meat … [is] bad for our health. It’s unsustainable in terms of environmental impact. It’s also a driver of pandemic risk.

Thijs Kuiken, a Dutch scientist and one of the study’s authors, explained that the globalized farmed animal industry is “very profitable” and that, as previous studies have suggested, by taxing meat production, the meat industry would be incentivized to operate in less harmful ways.

Another study by the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) Initiative warns investors that a tax on red meat may come soon. According to the report, momentum is building among policymakers to “apply carbon taxes on farm animal emissions.”

The hope is that a meat tax would not only deter consumers from purchasing animal products but motivate meat companies to produce less and diversify their offerings. University of Oxford researcher Marco Springmann told Marketplace:

In our model, we sort of have a direct link between consumption and production, so we would see a reduction in production as well. The good thing with a tax instrument is that you actually raise revenues and those revenues you can use to, for example, provide those incentives and help livestock producers diversify their portfolio, and also for running information campaigns for consumers.

In FAIRR’s “Pandemic Ranking” released this year, 73 percent of the world’s meat producers score as “high risk.” Scoring criteria are “worker safety, food safety, deforestation and biodiversity management, animal welfare, and antibiotic stewardship.”

On top of that, the United Nations warned in a landmark report that raising animals for food was one of the “most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global” and urged the world to take this problem seriously.

Luckily, we don’t need a meat tax to start making a difference for animals. You can fight back against pandemics, climate change, and biodiversity loss by choosing delicious plant-based foods. Download our free Vegetarian Starter Guide today.