Meat tax proposals threaten large-scale economic losses
A RED meat tax to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could force livestock farms out of the industry, scientists have warned.
The proposed ‘meat tax’ could cost the UK £ 242million a year, and these economic losses would have to be borne not only by cattle farmers, but by society as a whole.
A report from the agricultural research institute Rothamsted Research concluded that taxing red meat to help curb climate change could do more harm than good.
Agricultural economist Dr Taro Takahashi, who led the research, said: “From a climate change perspective alone, our results unambiguously support everyone’s conclusion – that a tax on red meat can reduce GHG emissions.
“But unfortunately that’s only half the story, as the same tax could also force grazing livestock operations out of the industry – even when grasslands are in fact the most land use. judicious in this particular place, ”he explained.
“In addition to impacting consumers and farmers, the ripple effects will be felt throughout supply chains as well as rural communities that support and are supported by farmers.”
The recent National Food Strategy report called for a 30% reduction in meat consumption, but avoided suggesting a tax on meat, calling it “politically impossible”.
Dr Takahashi argued that instead of a general tax, a better solution would be to examine which areas of the country are best preserved as cattle and sheep farms, and which would be better suited to other uses. such as crop production for human consumption, agroforestry, and the provision of ecosystem services.
“This would involve a more nuanced approach of weighing carbon savings against the amount of nutrients produced and the impacts on the economy, both locally and nationally.”
The new study, published in Scientific Reports, for the first time modeled the economic impacts of the meat tax and estimated that, even with moderate tax rates previously proposed for the UK (19% for meat and 11% for dairy products), the country’s economic losses would amount to £ 242 million per year.
These losses result from the transfer of land and labor from livestock farms to arable farms and non-farm industries.
Supporters of a meat tax argue that business models predict a significant reduction in GHG emissions due to taxation – emissions causing climate change are expected to decrease by 2.5 Mt CO2 equivalent per year , which equates to a monetized social benefit of £ 101million per year under the same carbon price (£ 41 / t CO2 equivalent) used to calculate the deemed tax rates.
“However, many of these analyzes fail to take into account the broader effects of taxation beyond the red meat and dairy markets, and as such, the macroeconomic impacts associated with a contraction in the market. livestock industry were mostly unknown prior to this study, ”Dr Takahashi pointed out.
Harper Adams University Assistant Vice Chancellor Professor Michael Lee – who co-authored the article – added: “Ruminants are the most efficient supplier of key nutrients for human health from unsuitable lands. to culture. The study points out that even with reduced protein intake levels as advocated by the National Food Strategy, ruminants, given our landscape, should continue to provide high quality protein from grasslands. In this way, more fertile land can be freed up for the supply of fiber and vitamins through vegetables and fruits. ”
Moving forward, Dr Takahashi explained that it is essential for the future of UK agriculture to identify when exactly grasslands should remain grasslands for sustainable food production: “So the question is, in what soils, local climate and other geographical conditions are desirable for society? We absolutely have to answer this question before we tell any particular farmer to stop raising livestock, otherwise unintended consequences are very likely. ”