Creating Economic Incentives to Reduce Animal Abuse
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Creating Economic Incentives to Reduce Animal Abuse

Last essay I suggested that perhaps taxes could account for “externalities” associated with raising animals for food – costs such as pollution, resource depletion, and diminished public health that the grocery store prices of meat, dairy, and eggs don’t reflect. What policies might animal advocates reasonably promote?
I don’t think a tax on meat and other animal products is an option at this time. Most people eat animal flesh, dairy and eggs, and they would likely resist such a tax. In addition, the burden of such a tax would likely fall heaviest on lower income people, who spend a larger fraction of their income on food than wealthier citizens.
A carbon tax would likely drive up the cost of products from farmed animals greater than for other products, but this proposal also faces several challenges. There is strong anti-tax sentiment among American voters. While environmentalists might back a carbon tax, there is widespread skepticism about global warming. A recent survey found that 97% of climate scientists hold that humans are causing climate change. However, a 2013 Pew Research Center poll found that only 69% of Americans believe in global warming and only 42% think that humans are primarily responsible for global warming.
While it might be difficult in today’s political environment to have a new tax, perhaps a more politically viable option would be the substantial reduction or elimination of expensive farm subsidies. These subsidies, amounting to tens of billions of dollars per year, directly or indirectly lower the cost of meat, dairy, and eggs. Though lobbies to protect these subsidies are strong, consumers might be motivated to pressure their representatives if consumers understood how these subsidies significantly increase their taxes and their food bills.

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