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Taxes on Meat Could Join Carbon, Sugar and Tobacco to Help Curb Emissions
By Jessica Corbett
"Driven by a global consensus around meat's negative contributions to climate change and global health epidemics such as obesity, cancer and antibiotic resistance," a new report by a British investor network concludes that a meat tax should be considered "inevitable" for any government serious about addressing the climate crisis and other health concerns that stem from factory farms and livestock production.
For more than a decade, the United Nations and environmentalists have warned that "livestock is a major threat" to the environment, due to land and water degradation as well as the substantial amount of greenhouse gas emissions that farm animals generate.
As of 2013, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization found that agriculture, including livestock, accounted for nearly 15 percent of anthropogenic emissions. The majority of emissions came from cattle raised for beef and milk.
A report from Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR)—which will be released in full next month—advises that meat is "on the same pathway to taxation as goods such as sugar, carbon and tobacco," which has led more than 180 countries to tax tobacco, 60 jurisdictions to tax carbon and at least 25 to tax sugar.
FAIRR researchers point to a 2015 move by the World Health Organization to classify processed meat as carcinogenic and red meat as a probable carcinogen, reflecting "similar reports on the harmful effects of tobacco and sugar." They also acknowledge that since the early 1990s, global meat consumption has grown by more than 500 percent.
In response to skyrocketing rates of meat consumption, last year a team at Oxford University conducted the first-ever global analysis of meat taxes, which concluded—as the lead researcher put it—"It is clear that if we don't do something about the emissions from our food system, we have no chance of limiting climate change."
In light of the worldwide surge in consumption and the research illustrating its consequences, as governments look for ways to reduce emissions to meet goals established by the Paris climate accord,"it is increasingly probable we'll see meat taxes become a reality," said FAIRR founder Jeremy Coller.
"Countries such as Sweden and Denmark have already looked at meat tax proposals," Coller noted. "If policymakers are to cover the true cost of livestock epidemics like avian flu and human epidemics like obesity, diabetes and cancer, while also tackling the twin challenges of climate change and antibiotic resistance, then a shift from subsidization to taxation of the meat industry looks inevitable."
"Current levels of meat consumption are not healthy or sustainable," said Marco Springmann, a senior researcher on environmental sustainability and public health at Oxford University. "They lead to high emissions of greenhouse gases that threaten to jeopardize existing climate commitments, as well as to large numbers of avoidable deaths from chronic diseases."
"Taxing meat for environmental or health purposes could be a first and important step in addressing these twin challenges," Springmann added, "and it would send a strong signal that dietary change toward more healthy and sustainable plant-based diets is urgently needed to preserve both our health and the environment."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
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By Patti Lynn
2018 was a groundbreaking year in the public conversation about climate change. Last February, The New York Times reported that a record percentage of Americans now believe that climate change is caused by humans, and there was a 20 percentage point rise in "the number of Americans who say they worry 'a great deal' about climate change."
England faces an "existential threat" if it does not change how it manages its water, the head of the country's Environment Agency warned Tuesday.
By Jessica Corbett
A new analysis revealed Tuesday that over the past two decades heat records across the U.S. have been broken twice as often as cold ones—underscoring experts' warnings about the increasingly dangerous consequences of failing to dramatically curb planet-warming emissions.
By Madison Dapcevich
Ask any resident of San Francisco about the waterfront parrots, and they will surely tell you a story of red-faced conures squawking or dive-bombing between building peaks. Ask a team of researchers from the University of Georgia, however, and they will tell you of a mysterious string of neurological poisonings impacting the naturalized flock for decades.
The initial cause of the fire was not yet known, but it has been driven by the strong wind and jumped the North Santiam River, The Salem Statesman Journal reported. As of Tuesday night, it threatened around 35 homes and 30 buildings, and was 20 percent contained.
The unanimous verdict was announced Tuesday in San Francisco in the first federal case to be brought against Monsanto, now owned by Bayer, alleging that repeated use of the company's glyphosate-containing weedkiller caused the plaintiff's cancer. Seventy-year-old Edwin Hardeman of Santa Rosa, California said he used Roundup for almost 30 years on his properties before developing non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Today's verdict reinforces what another jury found last year, and what scientists with the state of California and the World Health Organization have concluded: Glyphosate causes cancer in people," Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook said in a statement. "As similar lawsuits mount, the evidence will grow that Roundup is not safe, and that the company has tried to cover it up."
Judge Vince Chhabria has split Hardeman's trial into two phases. The first, decided Tuesday, focused exclusively on whether or not Roundup use caused the plaintiff's cancer. The second, to begin Wednesday, will assess if Bayer is liable for damages.
"We are disappointed with the jury's initial decision, but we continue to believe firmly that the science confirms glyphosate-based herbicides do not cause cancer," Bayer spokesman Dan Childs said in a statement reported by The Guardian. "We are confident the evidence in phase two will show that Monsanto's conduct has been appropriate and the company should not be liable for Mr. Hardeman's cancer."
Some legal experts said that Chhabria's decision to split the trial was beneficial to Bayer, Reuters reported. The company had complained that the jury in Johnson's case had been distracted by the lawyers' claims that Monsanto had sought to mislead scientists and the public about Roundup's safety.
However, a remark made by Chhabria during the trial and reported by The Guardian was blatantly critical of the company.
"Although the evidence that Roundup causes cancer is quite equivocal, there is strong evidence from which a jury could conclude that Monsanto does not particularly care whether its product is in fact giving people cancer, focusing instead on manipulating public opinion and undermining anyone who raises genuine and legitimate concerns about the issue," he said.
Many regulatory bodies, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, have ruled that glyphosate is safe for humans, but the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer found it was "probably carcinogenic to humans" in 2015. A university study earlier this year found that glyphosate use increased cancer risk by as much as 41 percent.
Hardeman's lawyers Jennifer Moore and Aimee Wagstaff said they would now reveal Monsanto's efforts to mislead the public about the safety of its product.
"Now we can focus on the evidence that Monsanto has not taken a responsible, objective approach to the safety of Roundup," they wrote in a statement reported by The Guardian.
Hardeman's case is considered a "bellwether" trial for the more than 760 glyphosate cases Chhabria is hearing. In total, there are around 11,200 such lawsuits pending in the U.S., according to Reuters.
University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias told Reuters that Tuesday's decision showed that the verdict in Johnson's case was not "an aberration," and could possibly predict how future juries in the thousands of pending cases would respond.