Greetings, insightful viewers, and welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. This week we examine the wasteful taxpayer-funded subsidies given to the livestock industry. We'll also look at the efforts to tax animal products to lower consumption and help reduce global warming, revive Earth's eco-systems and enhance public health.
The onset of the Industrial Age in the early 1800s brought about major changes in human activities in areas such as manufacturing, mining, transportation, and agriculture. And over the last 50 years, especially in developed countries, consumption of animal-based foods; namely, meat, fish, eggs and dairy products has been on the rise. Specifically, back in 1950 world meat consumption was 47-million tons and by 2005 it had risen to an incredible 260-million tons, or over five-times the 1950 amount.
During that same period the human population had only doubled. Today animal-based foods are typically inexpensive. In fact, relative to production costs, in many cases animal products cost even less than plant-based foods, whose production cycle consumes very little of our planet's resources. How can this be?
Governments worldwide provide the animal agriculture industries direct and indirect funding that enables consumers to buy their Earth-destroying products at low cost. In other words, we the taxpayers, whether we approve or not, whether we are vegans or not, are paying for the enormous subsidies that sustain an industry renowned for its enslavement and cruel treatment of land and marine animals and is primarily responsible for climate change, enormous environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, oceanic dead zones and ill health in humans.
In the European Union, for example, direct subsidies are given to farmers raising a certain type of land or sea animal or producing a particular animal product, and to farmers producing animal feed. Then there are market interventions, which include financial aid for those exporting a given animal product outside the European Union, buying and storing surplus supplies of an animal product at a specific price so that the producer is guaranteed a certain profit, and marketing of animal products to increase sales.
As the Nutrition Ecology International Center, an interdisciplinary scientific committee established with the purpose of investigating the impact of all stages and methods of food production and consumption, points out what's even more astonishing and incredibly illogical is that when zoonotic disease outbreaks occur, such as mad cow disease, avian influenza or swine flu, and a government heartlessly orders thousands to millions of possibly infected animals killed, livestock farmers often receive compensation from the government even though these illnesses have arisen due to intensive farming practices.
In recent years, Swedish Parliament member Jens Holm has been active at the political level promoting the message of dietary change to reduce environmental devastation and climate change. In 2007, while a Member of the European Parliament, he co-wrote the report, “The livestock industry and climate - EU makes bad worse.” In the report Mr. Holm and Dr. Toivo Jokkala investigated how increases in meat consumption affect climate change, and the role of the European Union in this process.
They concluded by presenting the following specific demands that can be carried out on both the European Union and national levels:
“Abolish meat subsidies, let meat bear its own environmental costs and work to make modern vegetarian food cheaper.”
The report also discussed the subsidies and other market intervention measures designed to benefit the livestock industry in the 2007 European Union budget - an amount totaling approximately €3.5-billion. In November 2010, Jens Holm and Sweden's Left Party submitted a bill to the Swedish Parliament calling for action to reduce national meat consumption.
Leaders Preserving Our Future: Pace and Priorities on Climate Change
Jens Holm: In the Swedish Parliament, my party, the Left Party, released a bill just a couple of weeks ago, which is called, “Reduction of Meat Consumption Bill,” and that consists of a few important factors. The first is that we set up a reduction target of meat consumption. We would like to reduce the Swedish consumption of meat, with at least 25%, by 2020.
This is a very, very modest reduction, I have to acknowledge, but there is a lot of negotiations behind this target. But it is, at least, a reduction target. And you should bear in mind that in Sweden and in the whole world, meat consumption is increasing.
So for the first time ever, we could have a curve where it's decreasing. We need an action plan to reduce meat consumption. That action plan needs, of course, to include the phase out of the subsidies to the meat industry.
TAX ON MEAT AND DAIRY
Jens Holm: It could also include taxing meat. Personally, I think this is probably the most effective tool, if we put a price on what pollutes.
Well, we do that in a lot of other aspects, but we don't do it with meat. In Sweden, we have huge taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, for instance - that is because we want the people to consume less of alcohol and tobacco, and I think that's excellent. But why don't we do the same with meat? If we do that with meat, I think it's important to use the money we raise from this meat tax, in order to subsidize, cut the VAT, for instance, on vegetables. So normal households, they should not be punished by such a tax.
HOST: In 2007 the Dutch Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis advocated a tax on meat in the Netherlands and projected that such a tax would decrease the nation's meat consumption by two-thirds. Dr. Jan Terlouw, the former deputy prime minister of the Netherlands, spoke with our Supreme Master Television correspondent about his thoughts on taxing meat.
Jan: When you look how we keep animals, just to be able to eat them, how we give them no life, totally removed from what is natural to such an animal, that is certainly a reason to say, “That is not the way!” On top of that is eating meat -- when it concerns energy use and in general the use of the Earth - is tremendously more expensive and worse than eating grains or fruit, etc.
If you would introduce a consumer tax on meat, then it will repress meat eating. And I am an advocate for that, for reasons which I mentioned.
Supreme Master TV: I quote the article by you and Hans Baaij: “Meat is not a primary necessity, but decreasing the consumption of it is indeed a basic necessity.” What is your argument to establish taxes? Would it have an effect?
Jan: How much effect it has you never know. But we see that governments have taxes on alcohol, taxes on tobacco, mainly to discourage the use of it, to reduce it. Something similar also applies for meat. There are many more people in our prosperous countries who are too overweight rather than too thin.
There are many more people who get sick because of obesity - by eating too much and too heavy or too fatty foods and eating too much protein - than people who are skinny because of lacking nutrients.
So there's every reason to put that under the microscope. And if you would note that eating a lot of meat is definitely not healthy, why would you then not use the same means that are being used for alcohol and tobacco to discourage this?
So I find taxing meat, that can be possible and besides, under European (Union) laws there are already restrictions for many things, but you are allowed as a country to charge taxes. So I am in favor to do so.
HOST: Hans Baaij, Director of Pigs in Peril and Animals and Rights and a lawyer from the Netherlands, now discusses the artificially low prices for animal products.
Hans: In general, the animals have a bad life. And it costs a lot of water, it costs a lot of space and people eat much too much meat. You can diminish that by making meat more expensive. Meat is much too cheap. So if you look, for instance, at chicken meat since 1960, it has become seven times cheaper. Pork meat has become two-and-a-half times cheaper, while we ourselves have become much richer since 1960.
So meat costs compared with earlier days are ridiculously small. The advantage of taxes is that The Netherlands can impose them unilaterally. So you are not dependent on the European Union. The advantage is that it is very easy to control. It is a simple way to levy. And if you for instance make it one euro per kilogram, then we have calculated, it yields one and half billion (euros) per year.
The European Union gives a lot of money for advertising (of meat). So what they actually promote is again, more meat consumption, while we have seen how bad it is for the environment, bad for the animals, and people eat much too much meat. So this is absurd, wasted money.
HOST: To recap, when calculating the bill for animal products, the tab is long: Earth's gifts of sweet water, fertile soil, and pure air are utterly befouled, animals are systematically exploited and abused, climate change is accelerated as producing and consuming animal foods is the largest source of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, and healthcare costs continually rise from people eating artery-clogging meat, dairy, and eggs.
To save our planet is this critical hour, not only must all governments remove subsidies and economic incentives promoting animal products, those funds should be redirected to encourage eco-friendly occupations such as organic vegan farming. In turn there will be a rise in demand for plant-based foods, creating jobs in other food sectors that are truly kind to our Earth and animal co-inhabitants. One way to enact such reforms is citizen action.
HOST: On many occasions, Supreme Master Ching Hai has encouraged people all over the world to contact their government representatives to inform them about the benefits of the vegan lifestyle so that these leaders are aware that a switch to animal-free foods is the quickest way to stop climate change and that society wants their help in making this transition a reality right away.
Supreme Master Ching Hai: We need all the help from the government.
We need you also to write letters to your government or any government that you think fit, any government at all. Everybody please write.
The government leaders and media can be most powerful and helpful in spreading the message to the most people about saving the planet through being vegetarian.
The government leaders need our faith and encouragement more, because we really need their leadership to bring about wide-scale change.
HOST: May a beautiful and peaceful vegan planet soon come to pass through the enlightened leadership of governments across our world.
For more information about Jens Holm's bill to reduce meat consumption,
please visit: www.JensHolm.se/2010/11/03/reduction-of-meat-consumption-bill/