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'Meat tax could secure future of Swedish farms'

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'Meat tax could secure future of Swedish farms'
Swedish cows. Photo: Lars Pehrson/SVD/TT
07:55 CEST+02:00
Sweden should introduce a meat tax designed to hit the sales of animal products that are worst for the environment, argues Per-Anders Jande from campaign group Swedish Food and Environment Information (Svensk mat och miljöinformation).

Social Democrat politician and Minister for Strategy and Future Issues Kristina Persson recently put together several working groups of experts to investigate Sweden's future challenges.

One of these groups will focus on green changes and competitiveness and investigate how a meat tax could be an instrument for sustainable food consumption.

Swedish Food and Environment Information already believes that taxing meat in order to reduce its consumption could be a way of increasing Swedish agriculture's competitiveness.

Animals actually provide a very inefficient way of producing nutrition. Plants need just a tenth of the same amount of land to produce the same amount of nutrition. Today, grasslands and embankments are cultivated to feed cattle throughout Sweden, but these areas could also be used for creating biogas and fertilizers.

This means we have the opportunity to produce a lot of bioenergy if we reduce our reliance on animals. This could be vital in making Sweden less dependent on fossil fuels in the long run and would help future-proof Sweden's agricultural industry.

Sweden also has an exploding market for alternative vegetarian products that could potentially replace meat and milk. Venturing into this future market could be an important part of future-proofing Swedish farming industry and help strengthen its competitiveness. A meat tax itself would stimulate the growth of vegetable-based options, making them relatively cheaper. 

Decreased meat consumption would also be an important investment in the future.

The burps and farts of cows and other animals contibute to high greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time, deforestation of the earth's large forests and other diverse ecosystems continues, while oceans are being over-fished to feed animals we breed.

The hunt for cattle food has resulted in some of the fastest extinctions of animal species in history. We still have the chance to stop this development, but we're in a rush to do so and we need political tools to help. A meat tax is one of those tools.

Beef and dairy products have the worst effect on the climate. But pigs, chickens and hens also play a role by eating food which is imported, which also has a major environmental impact.

Therefore, environmental problems other than greenhouse gas emissions must also be subject to a meat tax in order for this to be a success.

A properly designed meat tax would affect the meat that has the worst impact on the environment.

Grazing on natural pastures would be rewarded.

We could reduce the proportion of imported meat, which often has a greater environmental impact than Swedish meat.

Meat tax revenues could be converted into cash to expand the production of bioenergy [from animal gas], to help secure the future of Swedish farming.    

Per-Anders Jande is a spokesperson for Swedish Food and Environmental Information, an independent non-governmental organization which supports a sustainable lifestyle designed to better support humans, animals and the global ecosystem.

This article originally appeared in Swedish in Gothenburg Post and was translated by The Local.

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