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Meat tax debate: Public receptive to meat tax, but experts say the answer is even simpler

  • New research has found that a surprising proportion of the UK public would welcome a tax on meat to help tackle climate change.

    The findings, which come ahead of this year’s World Meat Free Day on June 13th, reveal that almost a quarter of the population (23%) would be willing to entertain a meat tax. The consumers questioned would be prepared to pay between 5-10 per cent extra on all processed meat such as hamburgers and sausages.

    This feeling is most popular amongst 18-24 year olds, with almost a third (29%) in favour, while it’s least popular amongst over 75s, with 62 per cent against such a tax.

    Comparisons can be drawn with the recently introduced sugar tax. In 2014, polls showed that 38 per cent were in favour of a sugar tax, but by 2016 almost half of Brits (47%) were behind it, showing how public opinion changed over a short space of time.

    However, sustainability experts from Plate for the Planet, a group launched to raise awareness of issues relating to the current levels of meat consumption, say such blunt measures may not be necessary – if people can be encouraged to reduce their meat consumption by other means.

    Sue Dibb, from Eating Better, and spokesperson for Plate for the Planet, said: “It’s incredibly encouraging to see that the public is starting to understand the effects that meat consumption can have on the planet as well as their health. More and more people are recognising there are simple steps they can take to cut down on the meat they eat and looking for better meat-free choices in supermarkets and restaurants.

    “But there are questions about whether a meat tax – unlike the sugar tax – is the way to go. We’re not here to try and put people off meat altogether in the same way that sugar campaigners are doing, we advocate the consumption of less and for people to choose better quality meat, produced to higher animal welfare and environmental standards for the meat they do eat.”

    Recent research has shown that moving from a ‘high meat diet’ (100+ grams per day) to a ‘low meat diet’ (less than 50 grams per day) would reduce an individual’s carbon footprint by 920kg CO2e every year – which is roughly equivalent to an economy return flight from London to New York (960kg CO2e)[i].

    Meat production produces 15 per cent of all greenhouse gases – more than all cars, trains, planes and shops combined – and unless the world’s rapidly growing appetite for meat is addressed, halting global warming appears extremely difficult.
    Sue continues: “There are many actions that government and food companies can take before resorting to a meat tax. We’d like to see the government putting meat consumption centre-stage in strategies to meet climate change targets and ensuring that messages to eat less meat – of all types – come across clearly the UK’s official dietary guidance the Eatwell Guide. And food companies and caterers can do much more to offer a better choice of great tasting meat-free meals.”

    People are being urged to play their part by getting behind this year’s World Meat Free Day on June 13, which aims to raise public awareness and promote a less and better quality approach to meat consumption in order to help tackle current environmental and health issues.