Planting a Seed: Is a Red-Meat Tax on the Menu?

A European consulting firm is floating the idea of a sin tax targeting red meat.

This can’t be good news to Americans in the midst of grilling season, with a plethora of family picnics, tailgates, and other gatherings still to come: A European consulting firm is floating the idea of a sin tax targeting red meat.

It was an offhand remark, to be sure, and one not getting a lot of media play. But as a report from Fitch Solutions Macro Research tells us, “The global rise of sugar taxes makes it easy to envisage a similar wave of regulatory measures targeting the meat industry.”

Those who’ve taken the ball and run with it naturally point to the generally ineffective and underperforming taxes on sugary drinks, a pairing Fitch Solutions called “a policy sibling” because “over-consumption is a public health issue.” However, freelance journalist James Murphy connected some additional dots to reveal a more rancid motive: “The climate hysterics and animal-rights activists … want the price to be so high for meat that consumers will seek out other protein options.” As Murphy adds, “They want to social-engineer eating meat out of existence.”

In his piece, Murphy refers to a recent report by the dubious and discredited United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, contending that it “calls for humanity to vastly decrease the amount of meat we eat in order to help forestall the ginned-up menace of anthropogenic climate change.”

Murphy, who is definitely a skeptic on the subject, may be overstating the case, but he has a point. When we consider other consumer products — like alcohol and tobacco — whose consumption governments at all levels have tried to regulate, it’s not a big stretch to imagine significant taxes on red meat. And since we can’t pin the more obvious effects of drunk driving or secondhand smoke on the guy who likes his T-bone steak medium rare, a handy straw man for that argument is “climate change,” which has become a catch-all excuse for government to reach deeper into our pockets and regulate our lives further.

While the Fitch Solutions report also noted the unlikelihood of such a tax being implemented anytime soon in the U.S., it’s worth stating that less than five years have elapsed since the first sugary-drink tax was introduced in Berkeley, California, and these taxes have already spread to several of our largest jurisdictions, including Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Given all this, can a tax on meat really be far behind?

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