A new study from the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food has recommended imposing massive taxes on meat and milk to reduce emissions and ‘save half a million lives a year’ with ‘healthier diets’.
The authors said a tax of 40 percent should be imposed on beef; 20 per cent on milk; 15 per cent on lamb; 8.5 per cent on chicken; 7 per cent on pork and 5 per cent on eggs. Vegetable oil was also slapped with a 25 per cent tax due to its low original price.
The research, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, claimed food production was responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions – primarily from raising cattle and other livestock.
Marco Springmann, who led the study, said: “It is clear that if we do not do something about the emissions from our food system, we have no chance of limiting climate change below 2C.
“But if you have to pay 40 per cent more for your steak, you might choose to have it once a week instead of twice.”
The researchers worked out how much tax to apply to each product based upon how much ‘climate damage’ its production caused. Beef was subjected to a higher levy because of methane emissions from cattle and the grains they are fed.
Mr Springmann said the plan would reduce climate emissions by 1 billion tonnes a year.
He is not the first academic to suggest cutting meat consumption to reduce emissions. A UN report by Professor Edgar Hertwich in 2010 said a global shift to a vegan diet was vital to ‘save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change’.
Dr Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has also encouraged people to have one meat-free day a week, then reduce their meat consumption even further if they want to make a ‘personal and effective sacrifice to help tackle climate change’.
But NFU climate change adviser Dr Ceris Jones pointed to the work the agricultural sector has already done to reduce emissions and the health benefits of eating red meat. She said: “Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture in the UK have decreased by around 16 per cent since 1990 and the industry has committed to tackling its greenhouse gases through the Greenhouse Gas Action Plan.”
“Scientific and medical communities both agree consuming recommended quantities of red meat is beneficial to human health and provides the body with a ready source of essential vitamins and minerals.”