Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has urged the UK government to “seriously consider” a meat tax. The MP believes the levy is essential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
According to The Guardian, Lucas’ announcement – made at the Oxford Farming Conference at the beginning of January – was timed to coincide with Veganuary, a campaign aimed at encouraging as many people as possible to ditch meat, dairy, and eggs for 31 days at the start of the year. This year, nearly three million Brits are expected to give a plant-based diet a shot for their health, the animals, and the environment.
Lucas believes a meat tax could forcibly reduce consumption, minimizing the impact of the animal agricultural industry on the environment. She noted that the government should work alongside farmers to transition them to sustainable agriculture. The MP also tabled a motion to require animal agriculture to be net zero in emissions as soon as possible.
“Better manure management and careful selection of feed can both help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but – at the risk of incurring the wrath of the energy secretary, who said recently that encouraging people to eat less meat would be the worst sort of nanny state ever – we need serious consideration of measures like a meat tax,” stated Lucas.
The proposition of a meat tax has received backlash from a number of farming organizations including the National Union of Farmers and the National Sheep Association.
Phil Stocker, the chief executive of the National Sheep Association, said, “The right meat, consumed sensibly, should be incentivised and not taxed. Sheep production is not damaging to the environment or to health – sheep mainly eat grass and grass is part of a complex and natural cycling of carbon, with soil storing carbon in organic matter.”
However, recent studies have suggested that a meat tax is necessary, and not just for the environmental benefits but because it could save thousands of lives. Research conducted at the end of 2018 revealed that a global tax on red and processed meat could save 220,000 lives by 2020 and reduce the cost of healthcare by £30.7 billion.
The World Cancer Fund supports the research. Louis Meincke of the organization said in a statement, “This research, looking at the potential effects of a meat tax, shows it could help reduce the level of meat consumption, similar to how a sugar-sweetened beverage tax works, as well as offset costs to the healthcare system and improve environmental sustainability.”
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