Group lobbies for ‘climate tax’ on meat

Beef Central, 14/12/2017

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’.



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  1. Charlie Hawkins, 18/12/2017

    One approach could be to benchmark emission intensity per herd. If producers are able to demonstrate an improvement on liveweight gain from the baseline and reduction in EI, they are awarded or indemnified.

    We are undertaking this process with the Beef Cattle Herd Management Methodology with the only project to receive Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs).

  2. Will Robinson, 16/12/2017

    If atmospheric carbon is as high as we are told – it presents itself as an opportunity to capture it with more green leaves on more grass? More atmospheric carbon should generate more carbohydrate? I wonder if the politicians will now decide to tax graziers again – for taking more than their fair share! As noted by one old grazier – this carbon story will be like “unprotected sex in brothels” – difficult to police?

  3. Paul Franks, 15/12/2017

    I have found those enthusiastic believers in man made climate change are still very selective on what they believe and where they source their data from.

    As I get older I also understand that people really want to protect their interests and most people will turn a blind eye to truths that do not support their narrative or serve to reduce their interests. They will happily stomp on some people and ignore others.

    Take fossil fuel use. When was the last time you heard someone say private car use and air travel use must be restricted to reduce emissions? Or reduce consumer trinkets, or consumer goods must be made to be repairable and last x years to reduce emissions. You will never hear that, as that would upset too many people.

    When was the last time you heard someone say rural land owners must restrict what they do to reduce emissions? You hear that all the time.

  4. Jodie Green, 15/12/2017

    Accounting for and tallying up the costs and benefits for climate and health is happening in every industry on the planet, not just animal agriculture. As in any business our job is to make sure the ledger is balanced.

  5. Will Robinson, 15/12/2017

    Politicians will invariably get excited about a new tax – more revenue! Well grassed and well managed grassland used for sustainable animal production needs to be encouraged for environmental improvement – not penalised or punished. Livestock industry representative bodies may need to explain this simple philosophy to this ever increasing group of “new age tax junkies?”

  6. Michael J. Vail, 15/12/2017

    Livestock grazing and grass-fed beef are arguably positive for the environment and the eco-systems; meaning they put more into the system than what they take out!

    This insidious idea of a tax on Livestock needs to be nipped in the bud as soon as possible! The industry should attack this and not let it slide through to the keeper.

    Be aware …

  7. Bruce Collins, 14/12/2017

    There is absolutely no proven scientific basis on which this can be argued. It is driven by a chattering class whose so-called science is little better than computer games, bidding for higher salaries. No thanks.

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