A beef with meat

Ethicist suggests a 50% tax on meat to make Americans and environment healthier

By Kim Peterson Oct 26, 2009 1:47PM
Bull market © Tom Brakefield / Photodisc Green / Getty ImagesHigh taxes on cigarettes have saved lives, writes Princeton ethicist Peter Singer. Why shouldn't meat be taxed as well?

Yes, Singer is proposing a meat tax. Eating meat isn't good for your body or the world in general, he writes in the New York Daily News. Taxing it would help.
Red meat increases your chances of dying from heart disease or bowel cancer, Singer writes. And Americans' love of meat has encouraged cruelty to animals, as chickens, pigs and cows are raised in deplorable conditions before being slaughtered.

Meat eating also wastes food, he writes. Animals consume huge amounts of grains and soybeans, but Americans only eat certain parts of the animals. "We get back only a fraction of the food value we put into them," he writes. Finally, agricultural runoff pollutes rivers and streams.

Bottom line, he writes, is that meat-eaters push costs on everyone. We pay higher health insurance premiums to help care for them. We see more pollution and global warming issues because of meat production.

"Let’s start with a 50% tax on the retail value of all meat, and see what difference that makes to present consumption habits," Singer writes. "If it is not enough to bring about the change we need, then, like cigarette taxes, it will need to go higher."

Singer's idea is "meating" quite a bit of resistance.

Beef isn't like tobacco, which contains nicotine, or like sugary sodas, which have little nutritional value, writes David Farkas of Chain Leader magazine.

"Beef for better or worse is a fundamental part of our food culture," Farkas writes. "Professor Singer: Taxing its purchase is wrong."

A panel scoffed at the proposal on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program Monday.

"I want to live that way," said host Joe Scarborough about eating meat. "That's up to me."

"You can eat your darned Big Mac," responded host Mika Brzezinski. "I just want you to pay a few cents more to help equalize the health care costs."

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