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Editorial: A tax to discourage meat consumption is distasteful

The anti-meat movement is gaining momentum with a new campaign by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) calling for a “sin tax” on beef, pork, poultry and even fish.

The premise is that meat is bad for human health and should be taxed like cigarettes and alcohol to discourage consumption. What’s more, they say meat production is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions or, as PETA spokeswoman Ashley Byrne put it, is “catastrophic for the environment.”

Eating more plant foods may well have been among the top 10 New Year’s resolutions people made this week, and that’s positive. Veggies are good for you. But the ideological war on meat is largely based on rather dubious claims.

PETA has vigorously argued that humans were never meant to eat meat, that our teeth and digestive systems are proof of that, and it has always been bad for human health. But a study in Nature magazine found that meat-eating dates back 2.6 million years and that without it the Australopithecus would never have evolved into the modern human as calorie-dense, protein rich, nutritious meat helped fuel brain development.

Not only does eating meat come naturally to humans, but it is healthy in moderate amounts — no more than six ounces a day, according to the American Heart Association.

Most meats are high in protein, Vitamin E and the B vitamins (including Vitamin B12), Omega-3 and minerals, especially iron, zinc and magnesium. These elements are vital in maintaining good health. Skinless chicken and turkey are low fat alternatives to high fat lamb and duck.

As to the environment, there are places where land unfortunately has been deforested to raise cattle. But Canada is not one of them. In fact, our grasslands have adapted to the rumination of livestock and our meat production contributes an insignificant amount to GHG emissions compared with the global figure, says the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association.

All of this brings us back to the proposed tax on meat. What a tax will accomplish is to deprive people of a rich source of protein that will satiate them and give them energy to work, study and play. Like all regressive consumption taxes, it will hit the lowest income earners hardest. It will also harm a $28-billion industry (Alberta accounts for 41 per cent of it), one of Canada’s largest manufacturing industries and the largest employer in the food manufacturing group.

Just as Canada has tried to restrict foreign funding of political parties, it should forbid interference by foreign non-governmental organizations, such as PETA, in our taxation policies.

Those who choose vegetarianism or veganism are free to do so. But meat eaters, who already pay a premium, should not be penalized further for making a different dietary choice.

Editorial: A tax to discourage meat consumption is distasteful

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