We are slowly killing ourselves, and the planet, with our gargantuan appetite for meat and we should be paying the price.
What is your guiltiest pleasure? A tipple after dinner? A few too many biscuits with your mid-morning cup of tea? Binge-watching reality TV? We all have our trivial guilty habits. But one particular habit results in the slaughter of six million animals each hour. This same habit is destroying our planet and making us ill and fat. This habit is eating meat.
Meat is everywhere; in unnaturally coloured wafer thin folds in our sandwiches, spinning in a grotesque display in the local kebab shop or lining aisle upon aisle in the supermarket. Our appetite for meat has become so out of control that Iceland are even flogging novelty ‘I’m a celebrity get me out of here’ themed exotic meat feast boxes with a selection of kangaroo, ostrich and crocodile burgers!
Although a bargain box of marsupial meat might not be on most of our weekly shopping lists, the seemingly endless availability of a product that, according to a recent UN report, is doing more damage to the environment than all the cars in the world combined is absurd. Globally we are farming meat at an alarming level. Worldwide meat production has tripled over the last four decades and increased by 20 per cent in the last ten years alone. This ever-increasing mass production is having severe consequences on our health and our ecosystem. The future of our planet depends on immediate action to reduce this excessive consumption. So what’s the solution? It’s time to tax meat.
This may seem like a radical idea but it is not without scientific and economic backing. A report published in the journal Nature Climate Change last year revealed the only way to “avoid dangerous tipping points as temperatures rise” was to reduce livestock numbers.
How does the report suggest doing this? Tax meat to reduce consumer demand. Bloomberg Business have even put forward an economic case for giving meat a “sin tax”, like the one that has hiked up the price of cigarettes and alcohol. The tax would stop us gorging on meat, which would lower cases of diabetes, heart disease and even cancer. This would reduce the strain these common conditions put on the NHS, leading to a more economically efficient health service.
Of course, trying to tell the majority of the British population that they should quit their meat habit is like telling US citizens they should give up their guns. But this isn’t about idealistic hippies scapegoating the farming industry, it is a rational solution to something that is slowly ravaging the planet and playing havoc on our health.
In anticipation of the ‘crazy vegans trying to destroy the farming industry’ retort let’s cast our minds back to when Corbyn’s vegan farming minister Kerry McCarthy compared the damaging effect of meat consumption to that of smoking. Public outcry ensued; ‘this woman’s ideas are cranky’, ‘we are carnivores!’ ‘just another vegan trying to impose her views on everyone else’.
Weeks later the World Health Organization announces processed meat definitely causes cancer and red meat probably does as well.
Those bacon sandwiches, fry ups and beef roast dinners are making you fat and probably sick.
Red meat contains the sugar (yes, sugar) Neu5Gc. This sugar is naturally occurring in the stomach of carnivores like cats and tigers. However, a recent study conducted by researchers at Washington University shows that as soon as it enters your non-carnivorous digestive system your body will trigger an immune response, which causes inflammation. This inflammation disrupts normal cell activity, which over time causes cancer.
If that isn’t enough to curb your appetite remember that red meat contains high levels of saturated fat. Indulging in significant amounts of it will probably cause heart disease in later life. If you’re still not put off, take a look at one of the numerous studies linking meat consumption with obesity such as a recent report by the US Department for International Health.
Our greed induced, habitual meat consumption can seem even more sickening if you consider that it leads to the staple foods of the world’s undernourished soaring in price. This is because around one-third of the world’s agricultural land is given over to growing food, not for us, but for the animals that feed us. Reining in this excessive meat production could help to stabilize food prices for poor and malnourished families across the globe.
The harmful effects of the meat industry are not limited to cows, pigs and sheep. Poultry farming and fishing is also slowly wreaking havoc on our delicate ecosystem. So, there seems to be no reason these products should escape the meat tax.
The huge consumer demand for fish means that 90-100 million tonnes of fish are pulled from our oceans every year and only one fifth of these end up on our plates. The rest are cast-off as ‘bykill’. Consuming fish at this current rate could result in fishless oceans by 2048, according to an international study conducted by marine biologists.
One of the most commonly known effects of livestock rearing on the environment is often laughed off with juvenile hilarity. Yes methane emissions, or ‘cow farts’ are contributing to global warming but one of the most overlooked effects the global appetite for meat has on the earth is drying it out at a staggering rate.
To put this in perspective, the controversial practice of fracking, which has been met by countless protests, uses 70-140 billion gallons of water annually. Meat production produces 34-176 trillion gallons. If the world fails to cut this down the ecosystem’s natural replacement rate will be exceeded. We will run out of water.
The fact is, humans do not need meat to survive. Protein, omega 3, iron and even B-12 can be found in many other, affordable foods. The humble bean is an excellent place to start.
But a meat tax is not designed to eradicate meat consumption. It is a moderate way of beginning to solve the environmental emergency that is occurring largely due to this industry. So, for our health, for our planet tax meat to reduce demand, it’s a small price to pay.