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Is Meat the Next Target for a "Sin" Tax?

The average American citizen consumes more than 200 pounds of meat each year, nearly twice as much as they did in 1961.(
The average American citizen consumes more than 200 pounds of meat each year, nearly twice as much as they did in 1961.(
February 12, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Animal-rights advocates say the time is right for Americans who choose a meat-based diet to pay taxes on both the production and consumption of meat-based products.

Ashley Byrne, associate director of campaigns with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said while there are no current legislative proposals, she believes "behavioral" or excise taxes on beef, pork and chicken could encourage people to modify their eating habits.

She said if we accept that it's OK to tax tobacco, alcohol and, in some cities, soda because of their negative health impacts, meat belongs in the same category.

"PETA has been calling for a ‘sin tax’ or an excise tax on meat for a very long time,” Byrne said. “But recently the idea really seems to have picked up steam with the public."

In a state such as South Dakota, which reported 4 million cattle and 260,000 sheep last year, a meat tax may be a non-starter. But health experts agree that certain red meats high in saturated fat can raise blood cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease. And that contributes to America's skyrocketing annual health care costs.

While some health experts endorse meat in various amounts, almost none endorse the quantity Americans eat. The average U.S. citizen consumes more than 200 pounds of meat each year - twice the global average and nearly twice as much as they did in 1961. Byrne said non-meat eaters should not subsidize those choices.

"It doesn't make sense for the millions of Americans who are vegetarians and vegans to pick up the tab through higher taxes and health insurance premiums when meat-eaters get sick from these diseases that are caused by a meat-based diet,” she argued.

In 2015, the World Health Organization announced a definitive connection between cancer and processed meat, such as bacon and hot dogs, but stopped short of saying red meat also causes cancer.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD