By Lysiane Chagnon Fontaine
Recently, the Trudeau government and the provincial premiers came to an agreement that there will be a national price on carbon by the fall of this year. It has become widely accepted in much of Canada and the western world that a tax on carbon, or some equivalent form of carbon pricing, is not only necessary to curtail fossil fuel use, but also can benefit the economy by helping to bolster the clean alternatives.
Similarly, I believe that one of the most important things that Canada and the industrialized world can do is to implement a tax on industrial meat production and consumption. Such a tax would share similarities to a carbon tax and taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. The basic concept, called “tax shifting”, where stronger taxes are levied against activities society seeks to curtail while relaxing taxes or providing tax credits for supported activities, is a commonly employed policy instrument. Currently, the government of Sweden is looking to potentially implement a tax on meat to improve the health of its citizens and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Vast quantities of cheap, industrial meat are a major factor in:
- Warming the climate through massive methane release and the fossil fuel inputs needed to grow crops to feed livestock. Livestock account for an estimated 18% of global greenhouse gasses, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
- Destroying native forests, wetlands, and endangered ecosystems through their conversion to agricultural lands to feed livestock. Agricultural conversion of native ecosystems is considered to be the largest driver of species loss on Earth at this time.
- Causing a pervasive health crisis in western societies through increased cancer rates, obesity, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disorders, and a plethora of ailments.
- Costing taxpayers huge quantities deducted off their paycheques in order to support expensive health care systems that deal in large part with ailments related to poor diets and excessive meat consumption.
- Using and contaminating massive amounts of increasingly scarce freshwater in many parts of Earth.
- Causing the unimaginable suffering on the largest scale of living creatures existing in unspeakably cruel conditions in factory farms.
A tax on meat will help curtail excessive meat production and consumption, reimburse citizens for the currently externalized environmental and health costs of industrial meat production, generate major savings for taxpayers through reduced healthcare costs, and greatly support alternative ethical, sustainable farms in its place.
Due to this confluence of diverse concerns about excessive industrial meat consumption, I believe that it’s just a matter of time until a meat tax moves to the forefront of policy considerations in much of the western world.
Originally posted 2016-03-10 00:02:03.