Further signs of the battle being waged against meat production by anti-animal agriculture groups emerged this week in the form a new report that claims a global tax on meat is ‘inevitable’.
The report has been released by an organisation named FAIRR – ‘Fair Animal Investment Risk and Return’ – which says it speaks for a global network of investment companies who collectively manage over $4 trillion of assets.
FAIRR says its aim is to close “the worrying knowledge gap” that exists among investors in relation to the investment risks and opportunities connected with intensive livestock farming and poor animal welfare standards.
In a report titled “The Livestock Levy” released in London this week, and reported by several global news sources including Bloomberg and The Guardian, FAIRR warns ‘growing evidence of the meat industry’s harmful impacts on both human health and the environment’ places meat on the same path that led to taxes on sugar, carbon and tobacco.
FAIRR’s full livestock levy report will not be released until January 2018. However, details released so far suggest the aim of closing the “worrying knowledge gap” may not go as far as citing evidence that exists in dispute of the claims the organisation makes about meat’s harmful impacts.
FAIRR says greenhouse gas emissions from meat consumption exceed emissions from the transport sector, a statement based on acknowledged erroneous data by UN researchers but which continues to be widely perpetuated. Will its report also acknowledge the encouraging work being done around the world to reduce livestock-based emissions levels? In Australia for example the red meat industry has reduced its share of Australia’s total emissions from 20 percent of Australia’s 600 million tonnes total emissions in 2005 to just 13pc in 2015, while also helping to reduce Australia’s overall emissions to 525 million tonnes over the same period.
The report appears to bundle processed meat into the same basket as tobacco and points to WHO’s 2015 decision to rank processed meats as a cause of cancer. Cancer Council of Australia senior scientific advsior Bernard W. Stewart who was involved in the WHO research offers the following perspective on the Cancer Council website: “lifetime smoking increases risk of lung cancer 50-fold. But worst case scenarios in relation to processed meat or red meat rarely reach more than two-fold. The 18% increased risk means risk is multiplied by 1.18.” Or, as explained in an article on the North American Meat Institute website on another scientist who contributed to the WHO research, “the risk of getting colon cancer for vegetarians is 4.5 percent. The risk calculated by IARC of getting colon cancer if you eat 50g of processed meat every single day (a hot dog a day) is 5.3 percent”. WHO’s website also acknowledges that ‘eating meat has known health benefits’.
Despite this FAIRR’s release says a ‘behavioural or sin tax’ on meat products is increasingly likely, if countries are to fulfill their commitments to the Paris Agreement, which is being negotiated within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to find agreement on greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance strategies starting in the year 2020.
“It is becoming ‘increasingly probable’ that the implementation of the Paris Agreement will lead some governments to tax meat in the same way many now tax sugar, carbon and tobacco,” FAIRR’s media release said.
“The pathway is driven by a global consensus around meat’s negative contributions to climate change and global health epidemics such as obesity, cancer and antibiotic resistance.”
In the release FAIRR founder Jeremy Coller said 16 countries have adopted 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.”
“Countries such as Sweden and Denmark have already looked at meat tax proposals.”
The release said the report calls for companies to consider adopting an internal ‘shadow price’ of meat to account for future costs, in the same way many use internal carbon pricing.
The scope of the report does not cover what the likely cost of a meat tax might be, but does point to proposals in Denmark that suggested a figure of “approximately $2.7 per kilogram of meat”.
Meanwhile, despite receiving favourable coverage in several mainstream media articles, the call has also attracted some criticism.
In an article in Australia’s News Limited websites, Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance director of policy Satyajeet Marar argues that “coercive ‘sin taxes’” only take money out of the pockets of working people who already pay more every year for drinks, smokes or anything else that becomes the target of ‘the insidious public health lobby — much of which receives millions in government funding for telling us how to live our lives’.