The IPCC recently denounced that we eat too much meat. Fittingly, a meat tax has just been proposed in Germany. The idea is good, but fails because of subtleties. A comment.
One thing is clear: it would be best for the climate and animals if we were to eat significantly less meat. Our health can also benefit from a balanced plant-based diet. Both can be proven, but it is not so easy to implement politically, socially and above all personally.
If you still want to eat meat, you should do it, consciously and in moderation. It is important, however, that we primarily buy meat that meets two conditions: on the one hand, it should be produced with as little animal agony as possible, and on the other hand it should be produced in a way that is as climate-friendly as possible.
A tax could help people shop better
In principle, this meat already exists: Biofleisch. The farming methods in organic agriculture are significantly better for animal welfare; Regarding the carbon footprint, the results are unfortunately not quite as clear. The BR came, for example, that organic meat from pigs has a better carbon footprint than conventional pork – but it is the other way around with beef. However, the underlying numbers date from 2008, there are no newer numbers.
If you want to eat meat, you should buy organic (for animal welfare) and (for the climate) organic pork and poultry rather than organic beef. Unfortunately, beef is one of the foodstuffs most harmful to the climate at all. This is not easy, because organic meat is not available everywhere and is of course relatively expensive. It would be nicer if we, as meat eaters, had more financial incentives to make our buying decision easier. A tax could help – but only if it is done correctly. And not taxing the wrong products.
Meat tax? Sounds good at first!
The current demand for a meat tax or levy comes from the German Animal Welfare Association, which even demands a tax on all animal products – i.e. on meat, milk, eggs and honey. According to the animal rights activists, the additional money should primarily be used for better holding conditions. There are plans for a corresponding special tax in Sweden for a long time.
The Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has also been demanding for at least three years that the normal VAT rate should no longer apply to animal products but to the reduced rate. Say: 19 percent instead of 7 percent. For 500 grams of minced meat – which currently costs about 3.75 euros at the discounter – an increased VAT rate of 42 cents would then be due. According to estimates by the Office, which, however, are based on ten-year-old figures, an additional five billion euros could be earned annually.
Read also: Animal agony for meat and milk: what can I do??
Higher VAT or a new levy?
There is, however, an important difference between the demands of the Animal Welfare Association and the Federal Environment Agency: the income from a purely VAT increase, as the Federal Environment Agency wants it, would not be tied to a specific purpose. The situation would be different with a completely new levy, the proceeds of which could be used to improve animal welfare. However, this levy would have to be legally structured accordingly.
Some SPD and Greens politicians support the idea of a higher VAT, the Union also welcomes the idea in principle. Representatives of the Left, FDP and AfD have so far rejected both variants.
Meat tax – a good idea with disadvantages
Unfortunately, the ideas that are currently in the room also have disadvantages. Above all, the idea of an increase in VAT is not well thought out. The reasons:
1. Only half get more VAT. Because: About 50 percent of the meat produced in Germany is exported and would not be affected by a pure VAT increase. This requires far-reaching changes to the law.
2. More VAT does not necessarily benefit the animals. As described above, VAT receipts are not earmarked. It can be assumed that an increase in price would result in less meat being sold in general. Without additional legal measures, nothing is likely to change in many fattening plants and slaughterhouses.
3. More VAT would make organic meat disproportionately more expensive. The prices for meat from sustainable agriculture are already higher than for bulk meat from the discounter. A tax increase would therefore hit organic products harder than cheap meat, which would only be a few cents more expensive. That would be equivalent to punishing organic farms that have already tried to improve animal husbandry – within the scope of their possibilities.
4. A meat tax, no matter which way, is socially unfair. Every tax hike on consumer goods affects people with lower incomes more than others. Meat consumption is environmentally harmful and morally controversial, but should not be a question of income.
Suggestion: More organic funding instead of half tax solutions
As we have seen, a pure VAT increase is out of the question if the animals are to be better off until slaughter. And: organic producers must not be punished additionally for their sustainable work. In addition, all income should be equally affected by a new tax.
Therefore, it would be better not to start with a meat tax (alone), but at the following points:
1. In general, there must be more subsidies and benefits for better animal husbandry and organic agriculture. If you want animals and the climate to suffer less, you have to pay farmers to create the conditions for them. This is only possible if companies also have an economic perspective. Therefore: more funding, more subsidies, more incentives. Corresponding programs already exist; in the long run, however, it must become even cheaper to practice organic farming and biomast. And not the other way around.
The cost of doing so is borne by the community as a whole. This can be done either through EU funds or through regular national tax funds. Due to the current tax progression, high earners participate as much as low earners.
With more and more effective funding, organic meat, but also organic products in general, would become cheaper and cheaper than conventional meat. If you want to continue eating meat, you could also afford better meat. And the housing conditions – in contrast to a VAT solution – would really improve.
2. It is also clear that those who promote certain production methods should restrict others more. While organic farming has to become more attractive, the opposite is true for conventional animal husbandry. This is only possible by tightening animal husbandry legislation.
This means that conventional fattening farms are forced to change their production more quickly: either they decide to switch to organic for economic reasons (because appropriate subsidies are available) or they have to be legally obliged to make improvements. Otherwise the suffering continues.
3. And finally: If it is supposed to be a VAT solution, it is imperative to ensure that organic meat is still only taxed at 7% (or not at all). Otherwise it will be less attractive to buy better meat, and (almost) nothing will be achieved for the environment and animals – in the worst case, proportionally more conventional meat will be bought than before …
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