Speaking at the Oxford Farming Conference last week, Lucas suggested a meat tax should be a priority for Government, with a focus on the beef sector.
She said: “We need serious consideration of measures like a meat tax, particularly for beef. I accept that British sheep farming is one of the least intensive forms of livestock farming so perhaps a banded system according to production method would help offset for more sustainable meat producers through increased revenue from targeted agri-environment schemes.”
She put forward the proposals on the back of the growing popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets. “We need to recognise that diets are already shifting. One in eight people in the UK are vegetarian or vegan – while a further 20% are so-called flexitarian.”
Speaking to Food Manufacture, British Meat Processors Association (BMPA) chief executive Nick Allen slammed the suggestion.
“Caroline Lucas’ comments and her suggestion of a meat tax, particularly on beef, expose her ignorance of production systems, the supply chain and her prejudices against meat-eating.
“In the UK we have one of the best grass-growing climates in the world and we have some of the best producers in the world. Seventy per cent of our farmland is grassland that cannot be used for anything else and we are well placed to turn something that people cannot eat into something they can eat. At the same time, if the correct production methods are deployed, grassland can be beneficial to the environment.”
Allen suggested that the Government should be looking to support the meat industry further. “Far from taxing UK beef production, people should be looking at how it can be incentivised rather than importing it from other parts of the world. At the end of the day, a meat tax would be incredibly complicated and bureaucratic and would be likely to penalise the wrong people.”
A meat tax was proposed in November 2018 by the Nuffield Department of Population Health at the University of Oxford. The report suggested that a tax on red and processed meat would “encourage consumers to make healthier choices”. This proposal was also shot down by the industry, with Dr Carrie Ruxton, member of the Meat Advisory Panel, likening a meat tax to “using a sledgehammer to break a nut”.