Caroline Lucas has called for a Meat Tax as pressure on the agricultural industry mounts.

Through a tax on meat we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make huge strides in combating climate change, says Caroline Lucas MP. Caroline Lucas, the lone representative of the Green Party in the House of Commons, is set to speak at the Oxford Farming Conference on Friday.

To a crowd that will undoubtedly be against her, she will make the case that eating less meat is better for the environment and proposes that putting a levy on meat will influence people to cut down on their consumption.

She says better manure management and careful selection of feed can reduce the carbon footprint of farms, however these measures don’t go far enough and a tax on meat would be essential for the farming industry to reduce it’s emissions. Her goal is to make the farming sector carbon neutral.

“If the world’s diet doesn’t change, we simply can’t avoid the worst effects of climate change,” says Lucas.

Livestock rearing is currently responsible for 15% of greenhouse gases. According to a report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and non-profit organisation GRAIN, the meat and dairy industry is set to surpass the oil industry as the world’s biggest polluters. The largest corporations in the industry are seeking trade agreements that will increase exports and therefore further increase the emissions of the industry.

Criticism of Caroline Lucas’ viewpoint of course came from many within the industry. Phil Stocker, chief executive of the National Sheep Association, says a meat tax would effect all types of production and consumption, including those which do work to reduce their impact on environment.

Stocker says:

The right meat, consumed sensibly, should be incentivised and not taxed.

 

Chief Executive of National Craft Butchers, Roger Kelsey, says the tax would disproportionately impact low earners and deprive them of an important part of their diet.

Caroline Lucas is not isolated in her position however. An Oxford University study from November also put forward the idea of a meat tax. The study claimed that the tax could prevent 6000 deaths per year and save the UK economy £700 million.

The debate coincides with findings announced this week from the US News and World Report. Their panel that includes nutritionists, heart health experts and weight lost experts have found a ‘flexitarian’ diet, essentially just eating a mostly plant-based diet with the occasional inclusion of meat, ranks as the 3rd best diet for general health and weight loss. An estimated 22 million Brits are said to follow this diet.

These scientific findings that show health benefits to reducing meat consumption may convince some to turn to ‘flexitarianism’, a meat tax such as that proposed by Green MP Caroline Lucas and Oxford University may push even more to this type of diet and vastly reduce the negative impact the farming industry can have on the environment.

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Robbie Lennie

History and Politics student @ Northumbria University

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