Higher taxes could bring cost of factory farming up to ethical levels. Photo: CC, Gunnar Richter.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Finding new ways to improve our health and environmental impact

The idea of a “sin tax” on meat has been discussed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and leapt upon by Canadian press. Essentially, such a tax would increase the price of meat because of its negative health impacts, similar to taxes on tobacco and alcohol. As unpopular as it may be, this tax is a good idea and this opportunity should be taken to bring the price of factory farmed meat in line with the higher costs of more ethically produced meat.

There are already additional taxes on products like tobacco and alcohol, which have been proven to be bad for our health. Meat certainly isn’t healthy, and that’s not even new information. We’ve accepted that it’s okay for some products to be taxed more because of their negative health impacts, so there isn’t a good reason to be more attached to meat than those other products.

Meat may hold a more prominent place than vegetables and legumes in the cuisines of various cultures around the world, but this tax isn’t an outright ban. No one is advocating for the elimination of the consumption of meat, just a higher tax on it. In fact, if our overall consumption of meat was reduced, we might respect it a bit more.

Meat is not a necessary component to our diets, as some writers seem to believe. There are many other ways to get the nutrients provided by meat, and in most instances these are healthier options.

The environmental impact of producing meat is significant, with studies linking between 14.5 and 18 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions to the production of meat. When society is looking at ways to lower emissions and reduce our environmental impact, doesn’t it make sense to try and lower our meat production?

Meat that is produced in more ethical ways can cost up to three times more than the lower grade meat. One effect of sin taxes is to change the buying habits of consumers, which is exactly what a meat sin tax could do—make consumers find more sustainable methods of bringing protein into their diet, and reward those who are producing meat in ethical, environmentally sustainable ways. On a more emotional level, producing meat in more ethical ways means a better life for animals than one spent entirely inside factory farms.

There can be a lot of debate around sin taxes, especially around issues like gambling. However there are no questions around the health impacts of alcohol, tobacco, and meat.