A tax on meat is coming. That’s the conclusion of a new report by an investor network dedicated to uncovering the risks to the financial world – and the world in general – of industrial livestock farming.
Analysts for FAIRR – the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return initiative, which manages $4 trillion of assets – say a “sin tax” on meat is inevitable as policymakers move to curb runaway climate change and improve human health. Such a tax would discourage shoppers from buying foodstuffs whose damaging effects on the environment and human health are not currently reflected in their price. The move would bracket meat alongside other items that are hazardous to health, such as tobacco, carbon emissions and sugar.
FAIRR founder Jeremy Coller, chief investment officer at the private equity firm Coller Capital, said far-sighted investors should be planning ahead to when – not if – meat taxes are introduced. “If policymakers are to cover the true cost of human epidemics like obesity, diabetes and cancer, and livestock epidemics like avian flu, while also tackling the twin challenges of climate change and antibiotic resistance, then a shift from subsidisation to taxation of the meat industry looks inevitable,” he said.
Maria Lettini, director of FAIRR, added: “As implementation of the Paris climate agreement progresses we’re highly likely to see government action to reduce the environmental impact of the global livestock sector. On the current pathway we may well see some form of meat tax emerge within five to 10 years.” Key to the move will be more education, however. As a report by Chatham House and Glasgow University made clear in 2015, Britons would support a meat tax – just as they did the smoking ban – once the harmful effects are made clear to them, and any negative reaction would be short-lived.
Last year, a report by the Oxford Martin School at Oxford University, led by Professor Marco Springmann, said a tax on animal products could have a “substantial” effect in terms of mitigating their contributions to climate change. It recommended increasing the cost of beef by 40 per cent and milk by 20 per cent. The environmental and financial benefits of eating less meat were set out last March by Springmann and his team at Oxford. They found that carbon emissions would drop by 63 per cent if meat free eating were widely adopted, producing as much as $30 trillion in savings a year, as healthier populations become more productive.
FAIRR was set up by financiers concerned that investors did not understand the “iceberg of risks” associated with industrial livestock farming and poor animal welfare standards. Its report will be available to the general public in January 2018.