Denmark ethics council calls for tax on red meat to fight 'ethical problem' of climate change

With cattle contributing a tenth of global emissions, people are 'ethically obliged' to change their eating habits, an influential government think tank says

Adam Withnall
Wednesday 27 April 2016 10:45 BST
Steak and other red meats would be taxed highest - but all food could ultimately be targeted
Steak and other red meats would be taxed highest - but all food could ultimately be targeted (Getty Images)

Denmark is considering proposals to introduce a tax on red meat, after a government think tank came to the conclusion that “climate change is an ethical problem”.

The Danish Council of Ethics recommended an initial tax on beef, with a view to extending the regulation to all red meats in future. It said that in the long term, the tax should apply to all foods at varying levels depending on climate impact.

The council voted in favour of the measures by an overwhelming majority, and the proposal will now be put forward for consideration by the government.

In a press release, the ethics council said Denmark was under direct threat from climate change, and it was not enough to rely on the “ethical consumer” to ensure the country meets its UN commitments.

“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,” the council said.

Cattle alone account for some 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while the production of food as a whole makes up between 19 and 29 per cent, the council said.

Danes were “ethically obliged” to change their eating habits, it said, adding that it is “unproblematic” to cut out beef and still enjoy a healthy and nutritious diet.

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“For a response to climate-damaging food to be effective, while also contributing to raise awareness of the challenge of climate change, it must be shared,” said council spokesman Mickey Gjerris.

“This requires society to send a clear signal through regulation.”

It has been a tough few months for fans of red meat, with consumption down after the World Health Organisation warned of an associated cancer risk.

You can read everything you need to know about the link between cancer and certain meat types here.

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