Meat Tax: Government Regulating Food Consumption

meat taxAs the 2014 tax season comes to an end, there has been one topic lingering for a decade concerning tax revenue. Should the U.S. government regulate food consumption by creating a meat tax in the name of environmental sustainability? A meat tax might seem ludicrous to some, but there has been serious consideration for a “sin tax” on meat supported by scientific data. Excess meat consumption is harmful to the environment, considering livestock consumes eight percent of the global water. Traditionally, public policy has always been implemented to try to alter the behavior of the population. If the government can circumvent meat consumption, methane emissions from livestock will be reduced. Carbon dioxide is seen as public enemy number one when it comes to global warming, but actually methane is 20 times more potent to confine heat in the air.

Studies have indicated flatulence from livestock releases greenhouse gases and raising livestock causes the production of more greenhouse gases, such as deforestation. Eight to 18 percent of greenhouse gas is derived by livestock farming. Meat production triggers other essential foods to become more expensive, one-third of the global cropland is supplied to domestic animals. Livestock production inhabits 30 percent of all the planet’s land mass, which depletes land use for raising crops for human consumption. Land-based meat production is having a negative impact on the fisheries. Fisheries are declining due to the practice of converting millions of tons of fish into fish oil and using it as dry feed for chickens and pigs which eradicates biodiversity in rivers and coastal areas.

There is also the argument about the adverse impact of meat on human health, a major factor in obesity and diabetes is a high intake of meat products. Domesticated animals are incubators of some of the world’s most harmful diseases; measles, smallpox and tuberculosis. The 2009 swine flu epidemic gave evidence of the easy transition of pathogens from animals to humans. Another risk of livestock on human health is antibiotics, 80 percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are given to animals. This practice is correlated to the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacterias, such as the case of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, which claims 18,000 lives a year. If the government regulates food consumption by instituting a meat tax then the revenue can be appropriated towards better health care for ailments caused by high-proportion meat diets.

A meat tax for the sake of the global climate and human health is an oversimplified proposal. It is not an easy task to tax products for deterring usage. Taxing items on food products can be seen as regressive especially in a complicated tax system that society sees as a burden. Tax procedures only function when they are minimized and viewed as beneficial to social and economic progression. When legislation starts using taxes to control the habits of the population, it could result into a sociopolitical movement that wants to lessen government intervention into personal lives. Also decreasing meat consumption would affect the pockets of many who depend on meat production, in 2011 livestock farmers received over $300 million in subsidies from the U.S.D.A. Government regulating what foods society consumes by taxing meat will garner a strong resistance from the meat industry.

By Isriya Kendrick


Bloomberg Businessweek


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