Meat Tax - The Solution to Climate Change?

by rtharby on November 25, 2016 - 8:55pm

Ask almost anyone on how they think the world should solve the issue of global warming. Odds are their immediate answer will be “use less fossil fuels.” However, recent research has shown that there may be a simpler solution that can be found right on our dinner plates. In the article “Denmark wants to tax meat to help combat climate change” by The Metro, It is reported that Denmark has proposed a tax on all beef products, in an effort to stop climate change. Livestock accounts for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than exhaust emissions from all forms of transport (cars, trains, planes) combined. Not only does livestock emit a large amount of greenhouse gases, but it is also a huge consumer of water. Approximately 43,000 litres of water is need to produce just 1 kilogram of beef. The tax would first be placed on only beef products, but then later extend to all meat products. This concept is proposed by the Danish Council of Ethics, and is backed by 14 of its 17 members. Mickey Gjerris, the spokesperson for the council stated that “Danes are morally obligated to change their eating habits” and added that relying on consumers to reduce meat consumption on their own will not be effective.

My initial reaction to this article was to think of how citizens of Denmark would react to such a tax. In the western world, taxes are an extremely sensitive topic. However, this could be way for Denmark to legitimize the state through environmental management. The tax could decrease meat consumption, which would then decrease greenhouse gas emissions, thus improving environmental quality. I also thought of how similar to concept was to the carbon tax that has been implemented in parts of Canada. By making it more expensive to consume a product, it decreases the demand for it. The meat tax is an example of a substantive economic instrument, because it’s using an economic incentive to decrease meat consumption.

In my opinion, I think this is an effective way to reduce consumption of meat. It is somewhat of a voluntary tax, since you don’t have to pay it unless you consume meat products. Also, it would be very difficult to persuade individuals to alter their lifestyles solely for the sake of the environment. My one concern would be for the farmers and agriculture workers who would be directly affected by a decrease in demand for their products. My criticism of the article is that he author did not highlight the key stakeholders in the situation, and how this new tax could affect them. For example, the author did not mention how much animal agriculture accounts for Denmark’s GDP, or didn’t mention the meat consumption of an average Dane. This would have provided the reader with a bit more of an understanding of the implications of this tax, and helped the reader understand the situation more effectively. Raising awareness of climate change causes to the public, and educating them on solutions is absolutely critical to combatting it. It is an extremely complex issue and the public must understand how their actions contribute to the problem, or how changing their actions could solve it.



Hi there,
This is a really interesting post! I had no idea that Denmark was thinking of this. You did a great job explaining the benefits as well as well as bringing up questions that the article didn't address. I was immediately drawn to your title because I'm a vegetarian for primarily environmental reasons. People always ask me why I don't eat meat and lots of time I feel like I can't really tell them all the reasons because I sound like quite the downer, which isn't always appreciated over a meal, especially when they are eating meat. I feel like this is a great tool to put the relationship between animal agriculture and climate change on people's radar. You pay a environmental disposal fee when you buy a printer etc., why not for meat too!? I think it is true that ignorance is bliss; its often easier to ignore personal contribution to issues but implementing economic instruments is a great way to get the message out to everyone that every choice has an impact. I hope that this would turn attention to more healthy and sustainable plant-based options instead of just making protein and adequate nutrition inaccessible to those in lower socioeconomic situations. If you are interested in this topic further I would suggest the novel 'Eating Animals' by Jonathon Safran Foer. It is his personal account of investigating the environmental, social and ethical implications of eating animals because he has a new son being born and wants to do more to be a responsible consumer. It was definitely a catalyst in my choice to be a vegetarian and made some points that I could not ignore. If the environment pays, why shouldn't we?