Tax for eating meat soon to be imposed?

Muffin the collie- who was run over and killed when spooked by a firework thrown by local youths

A price-hiking "meat tax" could prevent nearly 6,000 deaths per year in the United Kingdom and save the economy more than £700 million in avoided healthcare costs, say researchers.

By 2020, eating red and processed meat was likely to cause 2.4million deaths per year and cost the global economy £219billion, the study of 149 world regions found.

Researchers who worked on the study likened their proposed tax to levies on other products that damage consumers' health, such as tobacco, alcohol and sugar.

The World Health Organisation has classified beef, lamb and pork as carcinogenic when eaten in processed form, and said it was "probably" cancer-causing when consumed unprocessed.

The research is based on evidence linking consumption of red meat - such as beef, lamb and pork - to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer. The new tax would almost double the cost of processed meat and raise the price of a steak by 14 percent.

The resulting higher prices would also cut meat consumption by two portions a week - now people in rich nations each eat one portion a day.

"The results are dramatic for processed meat", said Marco Springmann, at the University of Oxford and who led the new study.

In the United Kingdom, the "optimal" tax level increased the cost of red meat by 14% and processed meat by 79%. "It is not about taking something away from people, it is about being fair".


The researchers have called on the Government to consider the tax, but readers told HuffPost UK this would unfairly raise food costs for low-income families, without providing cheap, healthier alternatives. I would argue that there are strong grounds for taxing meat. However, with different laws in different jurisdictions a global meat tax would prove very hard to implement.

Meat eating is also damaging the planet. The reduced consumption of processed meat identified by the study would also have positive knock-on effects on climate change and body weight. Higher prices might mean some people choose to switch to a less meat-heavy diet.

At those levels, the tax would collect $172 billion per year globally, covering 70 percent of the health care costs associated with their consumption.

Earlier this year the government introduced a sugar tax on soft drinks, meaning manufacturers have to pay a levy on high-sugar drinks. The researchers advise that if these taxes are in place, over £700 million would be saved in health care costs too.

The likely impact of a meat tax on death rates due to chronic disease was also estimated. However, in poor nations where people eat little meat, the tax rate would be close to zero.

Globally the benefits of a meat tax included a 16% reduction in processed meat consumption, and the prevention of 222,000 deaths from cancer, heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. "But as the noise died down people began to realize that they had a real choice and that switching to something more healthy was a good thing".

For the United Kingdom alone, an effective meat tax that offset healthcare costs would prevent 5,920 deaths per year, amounting to a reduction of 15.6 per cent in the number of deaths attributed to eating meat, according to the study. "And without equivalent incentives on other substitute foods, [it] is just a cost, not change-inducing", he said.

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