Shadow Defra Minister Luke Pollard has refused to rule out the possibility of a Labour Government introducing a meat tax to help meet the 2050 net zero emissions target.
Mr Pollard told a Countryside Alliance fringe event at Labour conference in Brighton yesterday (September 22) that he had already cut down on his own meat consumption with ‘Meat Free Mondays’, and this type of behaviour change was being seen across society.
But he went on to suggest the Government had a role to play in making others ‘more aware’ of the carbon intensity of their food choices.
He also claimed politicians had a responsibility to be honest about the ‘unpleasant’ changes necessary to meet the net zero target in terms of travel, trade and eating habits.
“Change is something politicians advocate, but voters do not always want,” he said.
“You might want the outcome at the end of it, but not want the process to get there.”
Asked whether he believed Ministers should push shoppers to cut their meat consumption, he responded: “I would much prefer the next Labour Government to nudge and achieve the effects, rather than to over-regulate, which then produces loopholes and disincentives along the way.
“But we are concerned that some of the voluntary schemes the Government has produced recently break the headlines but are pretty poor on outcomes, so we do need to keep regulatory interventions in the same policy toolbox as nudging along the way.”
Executive director at the Green Alliance think tank Shaun Spiers, who was also on the event panel, claimed the public would need to go further than cutting meat from their diet for one day a week to effect meaningful change.
He said: “The NFU’s commitment to get to net zero by 2040 is a really admirable aim. But I have to say, I have not seen a projection of how to get to net zero which does not involve eating less meat.
“You will have to have Tofu Tuesday as well as Meat Free Mondays, because we need to eat at least 30 per cent less red meat.”
Mr Pollard, however, was clear shoppers cutting meat from their diet was not enough, and farmers would need to change the way they do business as well.
“I know the farmers around Devon and Cornwall are more aware of the carbon intensity of meat production and they are doing things to address that,” he said.
“They know and they recognise carbon costs and perceptions are having an effect on their business.”