Meat tax favoured by public, report finds

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

CO2 emissions from agriculture have fallen by 20% since 1990
CO2 emissions from agriculture have fallen by 20% since 1990

Related tags Greenhouse gas emissions Greenhouse gas Meat

Global appetite for meat could be in danger as many consumers believe a tax on beef, chicken and poultry is a sure-fire way to reduce climate change.

The introduction of a tax on all meat-based products was mooted on Tuesday 24 November by a think-think who claim it could have a significant impact on the environment.

The research, conducted by Chatham House, claims the public have shown an appetite for a tax on meat if it helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and promotes a healthier, leaner lifestyle.

The report by international affairs think-tank Chatham House and Dr Catherine Happer from Glasgow University, underlines the importance of tackling meat production. Globally, the meat industry accounts for 15% of all GHGs – more than all the world’s vehicles combined.

Research involved extensive surveys and focus groups spread over 12 countries and the report, published on Tuesday 24 November, said consumers feared climate change would not be addressed if the insatiable demand for meat were not tackled head-on.

'Adverse health risks' 

By 2050, it is believed global consumption of meat will have risen by 75% and this will have a number of adverse health risks: adults suffering with obesity will boom and we will see a significant increase in diseases like cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

It is imperative to reduce global meat consumption in order to keep global warming below the "danger level of 2°C"​, the report said.

It also accused governments around the world of being "trapped in a cycle of inertia"​, suggesting they feared a vitriolic public backlash if even a whiff of a meat tax was made.

Meat tax could fuel 'social divide' 

Andy Hutson, corporate affairs manager for AHDB Beef & Lamb, said: "We do not believe a meat tax is realistic. Potentially, it could fuel a social divide, where poorer families could be priced out of the consumer market, while opening that market to more imports from global competitors​.

"The reality is that consumption of beef and lamb in the UK is not as high as historical levels as protein becomes relatively more expensive in the shopping basket after years of cheap food. For example, per capita consumption in 2000 was 24.7kg. If you look back even further to 1990 it was 26.7kg. In 2014 per capita consumption was 22.4kg. Meanwhile, poultry consumption has grown from 30.5kg in 2000 to 33kg in 2014.​"

Plans to cut meat consumption in the UK simply do not "hold water"​, concluded Hutson.

Government reacts

"We don’t comment directly​ [on the report]," said a government spokesman from the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).

But she added: "Greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural industry have fallen by around 20% since 1990 and we are working with the industry on their Greenhouse Gas Action Plan to help build on this.

"We are committed to meeting our climate change target of an 80% emissions reduction by 2050 and have already made great progress towards that goal, with emissions down 30% since 1990."

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