Meat tax could combat climate change and improve people’s health, says report

Taxing meat in order to improve public health and tackle climate change would not leave the unwelcome taste in people’s mouths the Government thinks, a leading international think tank has claimed.

Researchers at Chatham House, a London-based policy institute, surveyed people across 12 countries and focus groups in Brazil, China, the United Kingdom and the United States, and found that many would welcome a food charge if it helped alleviate high emissions levels

Meat production and consumption contributes 15 per cent of the world’s emissions – more than cars, trains, planes and ships combined – and halting global warming appears near impossible unless the world’s fast growing appetite for meat is addressed

The new analysis says this could be done through taxes, increasing vegetarian food in schools, hospitals and the armed forces and cutting subsidies to livestock farmers, all supported by public information campaigns.

“Governments are ignoring what should be a hugely appealing, win-win policy,” said lead author of the report, Laura Wellesley.

“The idea that interventions like this are too politically sensitive and too difficult to implement is unjustified. Our focus groups show people expect governments to lead action on issues that are for the global good. Our research indicates any backlash to unpopular policies would likely be short-lived as long as the rationale for action was strong.”

The report, jointly researched with the University of Glasgow and released ahead of the world leaders’ UN summit in Paris on global warming, estimates “worldwide adoption of a healthy diet would generate over a quarter of the emission reductions needed by 2050”.

Meat consumption is linked to rising rates of heart disease and cancer. To get to healthy levels, UK citizens would need to cut the meat they eat by a half.

A “carbon tax” of £1.76 per kilo on the price of beef could reduce consumption by 14 per cent, the report said.

Prof Greg Philo, also at Glasgow University, said the key was “creating a new public understanding that industrial production of meat is not only dangerous to your own health but to human ecology as a whole.”