Activists pushing to tax meat like cigarettes



According to the dictionary, a sin tax is “a tax on items considered undesirable or harmful, such as alcohol or tobacco.”

There is mounting pressure from activist groups to add animal proteins to that list of so-called “sinful” items. They argue meat creates added healthcare costs and negative impacts on the environment.

It might sound silly, but as Dr. Sylvain Charlebois of Dalhousie University notes in a Globe and Mail editorial this week, a recent report released by the Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return Initiative (FAIRR) should not be underestimated, based on financial and investment reasons.

“Now, if you think the FAIRR initiative is some minor, underresourced group desperately trying to seek attention, think again. It includes a portfolio of 57 investors with more than $2.3-trillion under management. This alliance clearly wants to influence the plant-based protein agenda and it has had its fair share of success in doing so.”

On Friday’s edition of RealAg Radio, I chatted with Sylvain Charlebois and asked him could animal based protein find itself under a sin tax in Canada in the future.

It is easy for many of us meat lovers to scoff towards this idea that meat could be taxed like cigarettes and alcohol, but we should not. FAIRR is targeting investors in food companies, which have a major say in how is produced.

On the other hand, as Charlebois points out, meat consumption in Canada and the United States is very strong. Consumers, in general, are not exhibiting the same level of concern as the FAIRR.

I think a fundamental questions in this “what if” discussion is whether the this is something the current Canadian government would even consider.  Based on the fumbled proposed tax change saga this past fall, Finance Minister Bill Morneau likely needs to avoid further controversial tax battles.  On the other hand, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, may have different feelings based on her GHG reduction objectives.

In an era of federal deficits, government’s are seeing new revenue sources like carbon and marijuana taxes. Time will tell if this version of the Canadian government is considering stifling meat demand to raise tax revenue, but according to Dr. Charlebois, the concept is gaining momentum.

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