Animal Agriculture

Denmark Considers Environmental Tax On Red Meat

Denmark could introduce a tax on red meet after a government think tank concluded that it is “necessary to include food” if the country is to live up to the Paris Agreement.

Cattle contributes to a tenth of global emissions but is widely ignored in climate talks. A cow releases between 70 and 120 kg of Methane per year on average, which contributes significantly to climate change. The negative effect on the climate of Methane is 23 times higher than the effect of CO2.

The Danish Council of Ethics has recommended an initial tax on beef, with a view to extending the regulation to all red meats in future. It says Danes are “ethically obliged” to change their eating habits, adding that cutting out beef and still enjoying a healthy and nutritious diet shouldn’t be problematic.

In a press release, the council said: “The Danish way of life is far from climate-sustainable, and if we are to live up to the Paris Agreement target of keeping the global temperature rise ‘well’ below 2°C, it is necessary both to act quickly and involve food.”


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2 Responses

  1. Rosie

    This would be a good first step at beginning to combat the negative environmental impacts of large-scale animal agriculture. Better still would be for each of us to switch permanently to healthy and humane plant-based foods.

  2. Your estimate of cattle’s contribution to global emissions is excessively high. The World Resource Institute estimates that global livestock and manure contribute 5.2% of greenhouse gas emissions. However in wealthy nations (where people drive cars, fly in airplanes, and use electricity to heat and cool their homes) the percentage is much less. In the United States, the World Resource Institute has estimated that livestock and manure contribute to 2.5% of the nations greenhouse gas emissions. Iowa State University has a more thorough estimate of agriculture’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. They estimate that enteric fermentation (methane from cows) is responsible for 1.5% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and manure management (from cows, pigs, chickens) is responsible for 0.7% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. For wealthy nations, a change of diet will have very little impact on total greenhouse gas emissions.

    Here is what taxing resources WILL do. Since wealth is relative (my wealth relative to Warren Buffet is very low, however my wealth relative to the average Pakistani is very high), increasing the cost of a resource with taxation will make it more difficult for relatively poor people to acquire. So, it will shift the supply of the resource from the relatively poor to the relatively rich. And it will also increase the wealth and power of the government that is collecting the tax.

    There are only two ways to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. The first would be to reduce the per capita consumption of the world’s wealthiest people (which isn’t going to happen, if I began riding a bicycle to work I would starve to death, as long as petroleum is available to make wealthy people wealthier this is not an option). The second would be to maintain per capita consumption while decreasing the global human population, particularly reducing the population of the world’s wealthiest people (the largest consumers, the largest polluters). This second option is possible and it would work, however the world’s wealthy people are quietly avoiding this discussion. They are publicly trying to place the blame for climate change on an animal that can not speak out in its own defense.

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