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posted by janrinok on Monday December 11 2017, @10:06PM   Printer-friendly
from the my-cold,-dead-animal dept.

Like tobacco, carbon emissions and sugar, we can expect the harm to human health and the environment caused by the production and consumption of meat to be mitigated by 'sin taxes'in the next five to ten years.

"Sin taxes" on meat to reduce its huge impact on climate change and human health look inevitable, according to analysts for investors managing more than $4tn of assets.

The global livestock industry causes 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions and meat consumption is rising around the world, but dangerous climate change cannot be avoided unless this is radically curbed. Furthermore, many people already eat far too much meat, seriously damaging their health and incurring huge costs. Livestock also drive other problems, such as water pollution and antibiotic resistance.

A new analysis from the investor network Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (Fairr) Initiative argues that meat is therefore now following the same path as tobacco, carbon emissions and sugar towards a sin tax, a levy on harmful products to cut consumption. Meat taxes have already been discussed in parliaments in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, the analysis points out, and China's government has cut its recommended maximum meat consumption by 45% in 2016.

Would you pay a "meat tax" or would you change your eating habits?


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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11 2017, @10:31PM (21 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 11 2017, @10:31PM (#608489)

    We can graze cattle, sheep, and goats on land that is unsuitable for farming. We often instead feed them soybeans and corn. Only one of those ought to be taxed.

    Instead of taxing all meat based on antibiotic use, just tax the meat produced that way... or ban it.

    I expect the concept of "animal cruelty" to come up, and maybe it is the driving force behind this. If we are going to care about that, then tax or ban halal slaughter.

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  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday December 12 2017, @01:09AM (20 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @01:09AM (#608565)

    The problem, whether cattle is grazed on grass or fed soybeans, is that cows eat a lot of solar power (and release a fair amount of methane) - so, for every person on the planet who consumes 1/4lb of beef per day - 100lbs of beef per year, there's about 6000 square feet of productive pastureland (or 100,000 square feet of desert scrub, or 1500 square feet of intensively farmed soybeans, etc.) that has been converted to feed the cows that go into those burgers. 6000 square feet per person, times 350 million Americans = 75,000 square miles of productive farmland just to feed the beef cattle. The US has about 550,000 square miles planted in crops, ~125,000 sq mi in feeder corn 'cause 'muricans don't just eat beef.

    As the world shifts toward western tastes in food, that 0.35B number is potentially shifting up by a factor of 20, and we just don't have enough farmland for that, no matter how you slice it, irrigate it, or fertilize it with guano.

    'salright tho - the great Orange is colonizing the Red Planet, said so in a tweet recently. Sadly, even if Mars were terraformed right now and producing as much food per acre as the Earth, that only roughly doubles our available living space - and a factor of 2x is not going to do much at all against an exponential growth rate.

    --
    Україна досі не є частиною Росії. https://www.newsweek.com/russian-state-tv-ukraine-war-dirty-bomb-putin-1754428
    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by number11 on Tuesday December 12 2017, @01:47AM

      by number11 (1170) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @01:47AM (#608581)

      The problem, whether cattle is grazed on grass or fed soybeans, is that cows eat a lot of solar power (and release a fair amount of methane) - so, for every person on the planet who consumes 1/4lb of beef per day - 100lbs of beef per year, there's about 6000 square feet of productive pastureland (or 100,000 square feet of desert scrub, or 1500 square feet of intensively farmed soybeans, etc.)

      Cattle is certainly the worst case for North American meat production. Pigs, goats, chickens, rabbits don't consume anywhere near as much resources (which is why those are the sort of animal raised by farmers in poor countries). I find that I've pretty much switched to pork and chicken because of the cost, though I still eat a lot of meat. I've gotten used to it. Probably don't eat beef more than once or twice a month.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by DrkShadow on Tuesday December 12 2017, @02:00AM

      by DrkShadow (1404) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @02:00AM (#608588)

      We can graze cattle, sheep, and goats on land that is unsuitable for farming. [...] just tax the meat produced that way

      so, for every person on the planet who consumes 1/4lb of beef per day - 100lbs of beef per year, there's about 6000 square feet of productive pastureland

      Are you intentionally being dumb?

    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Arik on Tuesday December 12 2017, @02:01AM (3 children)

      by Arik (4543) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @02:01AM (#608590) Journal
      You're pretending an acre is an acre, but surely you realize that's not true?

      Much of the land used for cattle is used because it's unsuitable for most other crops. You can't just turn 1,000 acres of grazing land into wheat or broccoli or whatever, typically. And where you see cattle kept on land that IS suitable for other things it's normally a small operation, mom and pops have to use the land they have. Big Agribiz can and does move all the cattle out to a big plot of land that's otherwise useless or nearly so.

      So what you have would not only have little effect, what effect it would have would be drive even more small farms out of business. Probably not the direction you really want to go, all things considered.

      --
      If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday December 12 2017, @02:21PM (2 children)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @02:21PM (#608724)

        Something like 25% of central Florida ag-land is used for cattle grazing. This is land suitable for citrus, vegetable and all sorts of other production, but since the Lykes Brothers want to use it for cattle, it's used for cattle (along with several other large - for Florida - ranching concerns.)

        Hawaii finally gave up cattle on the big island, mostly because it's more cost effective to import than grow locally. Similarly they gave up sugar back in the 1970s... more social issues around that one, but basically, (Hawaiian) people can make more money changing sheets in a hotel room than they can harvesting sugar cane.

        And, what part of:

        6000 square feet of productive pastureland (or 100,000 square feet of desert scrub, or 1500 square feet of intensively farmed soybeans, etc.)

        is pretending that an acre is an acre?

        --
        Україна досі не є частиною Росії. https://www.newsweek.com/russian-state-tv-ukraine-war-dirty-bomb-putin-1754428
        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Freeman on Tuesday December 12 2017, @05:47PM (1 child)

          by Freeman (732) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @05:47PM (#608814) Journal

          Assuming XYZ person / company owns the land, and it's not zoned for XYZ thing. Leave them alone. Complaining that a company / person that raises cattle on land that could be used for something else is the definition of busybody. I could use my land to raise goats (not enough room for cattle), or plant a garden. I could even do both, but I find I like gardening better. Plus, goats can get out of most fences and I've had perfectly good strawberries go to some fairly thankless goats. Purely subjective to my whims. That's what the "American Dream" used to be, you can do what you want where you want, within certain acceptable parameters, and hopefully do more than just survive.

          --
          Joshua 1:9 "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee"
          • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday December 12 2017, @08:45PM

            by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @08:45PM (#608919)

            Not complaining, quite the opposite, but pointing out that not all cattle are ranched on land that isn't suited for other things - quite the opposite.

            --
            Україна досі не є частиною Росії. https://www.newsweek.com/russian-state-tv-ukraine-war-dirty-bomb-putin-1754428
    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday December 12 2017, @04:28AM (13 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @04:28AM (#608623) Journal

      of productive pastureland

      Which is productive because you're feeding cattle with it. If you aren't, then it isn't productive pastureland. A good portion of such pastureland is not viable farmland. Globally, there's about twice as much land devoted to pastureland as to farmland.

      and a factor of 2x is not going to do much at all against an exponential growth rate.

      Then it is fortunate that humanity is not growing exponentially. Time to update your understanding of reality.

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday December 12 2017, @05:14PM (12 children)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @05:14PM (#608797)

        Time to update your understanding of reality.

        I believe history. Most people who try to predict the future fail, the ones who use history as a guide fail less often.

        --
        Україна досі не є частиною Росії. https://www.newsweek.com/russian-state-tv-ukraine-war-dirty-bomb-putin-1754428
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday December 12 2017, @06:16PM (9 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @06:16PM (#608835) Journal

          I believe history. Most people who try to predict the future fail, the ones who use history as a guide fail less often.

          Excellent. So you do know that there have been two parts of history where population growth wasn't exponential? That is, everything prior to 1500 AD and after 1950 AD? The former due to humanity routinely hitting carrying capacity and the latter due to a global, massive decline in human fertility, a trend which continues today?

          Also, historically, demographics has been one of the easiest things to predict about the future. It still fails on time scales past a century or two, but it's not like predicting what technologies will be sexy in 50 years or what fads will be hot in 10 years.

          • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday December 12 2017, @08:34PM (8 children)

            by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @08:34PM (#608910)

            So, while the best curve-fit for population growth since 1950 might not be exponential, I'd call an increase of 3x in 70 years to still be worringly fast - and I'll note that all these graphs that show an inflection point turning over to decreasing growth rate have always shown such a point in the future, a future that has not come yet: https://www.census.gov/population/international/data/idb/worldpopgraph.php [census.gov]

            When China instituted "one child" they managed to slow the growth rate, but still grew 40% in 35 years. And that's still only representative of about 20% of the world population.

            The trends that these "think tanks" put forth for slowing growth are predicated on the idea that the developing world is going to emulate present day US and European trends when they start to experience improved economic prosperity - but what's to say they don't emulate what the US and Europe did when they first started getting their improved economic prosperity?

            The future is never knowable, but what I do know is that 7 billion people spread around the globe under hundreds of separate nations are hard to control, and have all the same basic animal tendencies as human animals have had for the last thousand years. So, unless we manage to effectively starve the vast majority of the world population with resource limitations like prior to 1500, or provide them with sufficient DINK incentives to dissuade them from prolific procreation, there's a pretty good chance that the bulk of the world is going to behave like humans always have when they get enough to eat, free time on their hands, and a lack of war to fight. Many potential solutions to the problem, few of them pretty or socially acceptable by today's standards.

            --
            Україна досі не є частиною Росії. https://www.newsweek.com/russian-state-tv-ukraine-war-dirty-bomb-putin-1754428
            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:48PM (7 children)

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @09:48PM (#608955) Journal

              So, while the best curve-fit for population growth since 1950 might not be exponential, I'd call an increase of 3x in 70 years to still be worringly fast - and I'll note that all these graphs that show an inflection point turning over to decreasing growth rate

              At this point, you are merely arguing from ignorance, namely, that there could still be some unknown parameter that messes things up. Such things happen. For example, demographic predictions changed substantially (with Africa peaking out later at a higher population) when HIV treatments became available. But it's a surer bet with demographics than other sorts of predictions.

              The future is never knowable, but what I do know is that 7 billion people spread around the globe under hundreds of separate nations are hard to control, and have all the same basic animal tendencies as human animals have had for the last thousand years.

              Yes, most human populations aren't under control except at the individual level. People are animals, sure. And yet we have massive decline in human fertility. Your model is not working.

              So, unless we manage to effectively starve the vast majority of the world population with resource limitations like prior to 1500, or provide them with sufficient DINK incentives to dissuade them from prolific procreation, there's a pretty good chance that the bulk of the world is going to behave like humans always have when they get enough to eat, free time on their hands, and a lack of war to fight.

              We already know that assertion is false. Try again.

              Many potential solutions to the problem, few of them pretty or socially acceptable by today's standards.

              We don't need many solutions, we just need solutions that work. We have those - developed world wealth with empowered women who have alternatives to making babies.

              • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:14PM

                by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:14PM (#608969)

                Your royal we amuses us.

                The empowered women argument sounds nice... travel a bit in Latin America, Asia, and even the UK and tell me just how empowered the women are there? Better than 1800, sure, but "in control" of their reproductive destiny? Hell, half of the US wants to ban abortion clinics, and a quarter want to ban all contraceptives. If even one quarter of the world is running on misogynistic power trips, that's going to be 2 billion people soon, and as they continue to proliferate their attitudes will gain in popularity.

                We on this side of skepticism will begin to believe the predictions of population control when a few sustained years of population decline have happened, the Earth is already too damn crowded for sustainability - singing "kumbaya, every little thing gonna be alright" is simply ignoring the root cause of the sixth mass extinction event.

                --
                Україна досі не є частиною Росії. https://www.newsweek.com/russian-state-tv-ukraine-war-dirty-bomb-putin-1754428
              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:24PM (5 children)

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @10:24PM (#608974) Journal
                Sigh, I should have read your other reply [soylentnews.org] before responding. My apologies for coming in strong.

                Moving on, to summarize, here's my opinion on this overall matter. We want the world to be a mess because we have solutions looking for a problem. For example, the meat tax idea is one such. They want it so they're coming up with health and environmental rationalizations a priori to justify this. But like most such things, there just isn't a problem that needs fixing here.

                We have done some things right, sometimes spectacularly so. It's amazing that after the tremendous conflicts and surprisingly beneficial resolution of the last century, that the idea that we're doing well is such a radical concept. But humanity has never been comfortable with prosperity or security. It's always looking for the worm in the apple. Even a slight amount of relative deprivation (for example, when one does less well than one's parents in some developed world countries over the past few decades) is seen as the wheels falling off the car.

                My view on this is that in order to understand the world and its problems, we need not only to understand what we are doing wrong, but also to understand what we are doing right. Too often, assumptions are made without looking at the overall context. That can result, for example, in creating greater problems to solve lesser problems (and explains my continued [soylentnews.org] opposition [soylentnews.org] to climate change mitigation). It can result in crazy ideas which solve nothing.

                In particular, I realized that we could fall asleep at the wheel and do more to solve poverty and overpopulation in an ethical manner than any deliberate population control scheme could, and that most of our striving to intentionally make the world better is mere wriggling on the hook, to little effect. Of most of the rest of that striving, we would do better by resisting them than not, such as the meat tax or outlawing strong encryption.

                Anyway, that's where I'm coming from on this.
                • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:51AM (4 children)

                  by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @03:51AM (#609073)

                  meat tax ... there just isn't a problem that needs fixing here

                  So, at a population of 2B, I wholeheartedly agree. At a population of 60B, the point is moot, we're screwed even without meat farming. Somewhere in the middle, meat matters, and we're in the middle now. It's not a problem yet, but it could become one if total population settles in around 20B or so, regular consumption of Tuna for the Japanese, filet mignon for the top 10% income earners (and pretenders), brisket for Texas, etc... if those trends spread to Asia and South America along with relative wealth parity with the US, the environment just can't produce enough to sustain that.

                  Even a slight amount of relative deprivation

                  Born and raised in Florida, over the last 50 years I have personally witnessed what happens when population of an area increases by a factor of 3 - and the relatively amazing thing, to me, is that the world population has tracked that trend fairly closely, Florida's population isn't growing much faster than the world at large. Empty spaces are shrinking, becoming much more fragmented. Places that used to be enjoyable are now smothered in a sea of humanity and development. There's still open space, but so very much less than when population was 1/3 of what it is today - and if you roll back another 20 years to when my father was born, there is another factor of 2.4 in population growth in just those 20 years, yes: the baby boom, but also a very clear demonstration of how tomato fields become suburban housing, forest and swamp become tomato, citrus and cattle production, and only the really really bad lands are left to nature.

                  We've got more money, faster cars, shopping malls, restaurants - none of that is lacking compared to 1950 or 70, what is in deprivation now are natural spaces, living coral reefs, beaches without condominium development, oceanfront without McMansions.

                  we need not only to understand what we are doing wrong, but also to understand what we are doing right.

                  We've been doing an amazing amount of "right" in the last 50 years - so much less war, so much more automation, mechanization, efficient labor and transportation, communication, education - by the old metrics we're killing it. Unfortunately, the old metrics don't measure environmental destruction, and on that side of things we're approaching an asymptote: as the untapped resources approach zero, the crisis will ramp up a hyperbolic curve. I don't think we're much past the corner of that hyperbola today, but I do think we're on the wrong side of it.

                  crazy ideas which solve nothing

                  No shortage of those, but in my mind the craziest idea of all is laissez faire: hands off the wheel doesn't work when the individual actors making decisions only see a millionth of the big picture. We're doing better at communicating the global picture to the masses, but it's still coming through a distortion of the presenters on both sides of the issue - neither seems capable of stepping back from Scopes Monkey trial levels of rhetoric and posturing.

                  In particular, I realized that we could fall asleep at the wheel and do more to solve poverty and overpopulation in an ethical manner than any deliberate population control scheme could

                  Possibly... I realized that we passed a point, perhaps 20 years ago, where the present course with "hands off the wheel" is going to devastate the world I was born into into an unrecognizable state. If you can withstand some hippie commie presentation of documentary video about what we've accomplished with industrial progress in the last 10 years, try watching Chasing Coral [chasingcoral.com]. It's just a bunch of dead rocks at the bottom of the ocean, what do we care, right? I snorkeled on those reefs in the 1980s, and they're 99% destroyed now. Sure, the corals are sensitive and we are passing their tipping point - they've died out before and come back, yes they have, but not on this scale since the last ice age, and then it was because of falling water levels instead of rising temperatures.

                  AGW is just one piece of the problem that is packing too many people on the surface of the earth. Hands off won't solve it, or many of the other problems. Population reduction would make almost all of these problems trivial, virtually self solving without regulation. Without some kind of population capping, no amount of technology - not even unlimited clean energy from controlled fusion, can sustain 3x growth every 50 years for the next 500. If we reach that level of mastery of physics, we may well colonize the asteroids and beyond, but there is one area of progress that has been virtually stalled for almost 40 years now: manned spaceflight.

                  So: meat tax? Meh, maybe tax it like alcohol and see what happens. Pragmatically, I'll tell you what happens in the US: the Beef industry laughs the proposition straight out of Washington D.C.

                   

                  --
                  Україна досі не є частиною Росії. https://www.newsweek.com/russian-state-tv-ukraine-war-dirty-bomb-putin-1754428
                  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by khallow on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:34AM (1 child)

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday December 13 2017, @07:34AM (#609129) Journal

                    No shortage of those, but in my mind the craziest idea of all is laissez faire: hands off the wheel doesn't work when the individual actors making decisions only see a millionth of the big picture.

                    They don't need to. For example, if natural beef causes a lot of problems, then it'll get more expensive naturally and those billions of individual actors will see only the millionth of the big picture that matters, namely, how much they're willing to pay for beef that causes problems. Markets are very powerful for communicating problems of scarcity or unusual costs to those involved directly in the trade. Things like pollution are more difficult, but we seem to have fixed that.

                    Meanwhile we could have top down people make ham-handed decisions that make the problem worse. That would be better than laissez faire, right? /sarc

                    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:03PM

                      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:03PM (#609197)

                      The markets aren't going to communicate the true cost of beef until the forests are gone, converted to pasture. While that conversion is taking place, the cost of beef is subsidized by the sale of tropical hardwoods - tropical hardwoods that take hundreds of years to grow and used to house a tremendous biodiversity. Cow pastures grow cows, grass, fire-ants, and not much else.

                      It's great for the people living in the age of exploitation (us) - gonna suck for the next generations.

                      --
                      Україна досі не є частиною Росії. https://www.newsweek.com/russian-state-tv-ukraine-war-dirty-bomb-putin-1754428
                  • (Score: 2) by gottabeme on Wednesday December 13 2017, @10:06AM (1 child)

                    by gottabeme (1531) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @10:06AM (#609166)

                    Your argument seems to go like this:

                    1. Producing beef requires X resources per eater, when consumed at a rate of Y beef per eater.
                    2. The number of beef eaters is increasing.
                    3. At some future point, there will not be enough resources to produce enough beef to meet the extrapolated demand.
                    4. Therefore we should artificially restrict beef consumption now.

                    It does not follow. This is what the law of supply and demand solves. As beef demand increases, beef supply decreases, and beef price increases. The back-and-forth feedback continues as production and consumption incentives are adjusted.

                    If beef were to eventually become too expensive for most people to eat (as can be said now of many foods), so what? Isn't that what you (they?) want anyway?

                    Why don't you just be patient and let it happen naturally? But this reveals the true motive: it's not about the beef at all.

                    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:09PM

                      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Wednesday December 13 2017, @01:09PM (#609200)

                      The problem is the externalized costs and temporary subsidies of beef production today. The subsidies (sale of timber when converting forest to pasture, for one - tax incentives for ag-conversion of wild spaces for another) are temporary, and serve to ramp up demand in the short term, demand that will persist into rising prices. The externalized costs include the destruction of biodiversity, pollution emitted in the process of production, and more that I'm not in the mood to dig up because, yeah, everybody here is right, meat is a small thing in the bigger picture. Whether each human needs 1 acre of productive land to sustain their consumption, or 10, is really moot - soon enough the population will rise to a level where the market forces start the squeeze.

                      If we could manage to start that squeeze before we totally consume the available resources of the planet, it would be good for our children, and amazingly good for theirs.

                      --
                      Україна досі не є частиною Росії. https://www.newsweek.com/russian-state-tv-ukraine-war-dirty-bomb-putin-1754428
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Tuesday December 12 2017, @08:24PM (1 child)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Tuesday December 12 2017, @08:24PM (#608901) Journal
          Speaking of history, we have some recent history [soylentnews.org]. At first, I was grumpy, why did Joe forget that we talked about overpopulation and the recent (since 1950) decline in fertility and birth rate globally? Well, it was because that part was hidden inside an EPIC thread [soylentnews.org]. Good times and a bunch of interesting ideas bouncing around in there.

          So the takeaway should be that Malthus's model doesn't work in our current world. It's broken. Globally from the developed world on down to the poorest African country, we see huge drops in human fertility and birth rate to the extent that population growth has been almost linear (which indicates declining exponential rate over that length of time) for seven decades. While it's tenuous, we're seeing predictions of global negative population growth globally in every continent and country by 2100 (perhaps several decades earlier, with Africa being the last holdout) without any sort of disaster, disease, or other calamity needed to drive the population reduction.

          At this point, we should be thinking about how to expedite the process rather than sin taxes on irrelevant behavior some people don't like.
          • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Tuesday December 12 2017, @08:36PM

            by JoeMerchant (3937) on Tuesday December 12 2017, @08:36PM (#608911)

            Thank you for also taking the time to restate your opinions, khallow.

            --
            Україна досі не є частиною Росії. https://www.newsweek.com/russian-state-tv-ukraine-war-dirty-bomb-putin-1754428