This weeks long read is an article I wrote on the green economy and an inclusion of a meat tax.
Can humans change their behaviour without economic incentive? Let me know what you think!
We have entered into an age of human caused ecocrisis, a situation compromised of climate change, biodiversity loss, habitat loss, pollution and countless other pressing issues (Curry, 2011). In order to survive on this planet we must keep our population and ecological footprint below the carrying capacity (van den Berg, 2012). One of the largest contributors to a human’s footprint, especially their water footprint, is the consumption of meat (Mekonnen & Hoekstra, 2012). If everyone were to replace all meat in their diet by an equivalent amount of crop products such as nuts it would result in a 30% reduction of the food-related water footprint of the average American citizen (Mekonnen & Hoekstra, 2012). Although it seems like vegetarianism and veganism would be the obvious solution, global meat production has almost doubled between 1980 and 2004, and this upward trend in meat consuming behaviour will continue given the projected doubling of meat production in the period 2000 to 2050 (Mekonnen & Hoekstra, 2012). One solution is that businesses internalize the environmental impact of the beef, as well as take into account the price of the animal’s life, so that meat would quickly become a luxury good, inducing a forced behaviour change.
One of the reasons that behaviour change has been so slow is that humans do not consider animals in our moral circle, the limits end at the human species. Peter Singer calls this prejudice “Speciesism”; bias in the favour of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species (1977). So far the only animals granted moral consideration are ‘higher’ species, those such as primates, but animals like cows and pigs are freely available for consumption (Curry, 2011). In addition to expanding our moral circle to include animals, Tom Regan argues for animal rights, and that animals have a right to life, which includes quality of life (1983).
Until all humans have widened their moral circle to include non-human animals, a social regime must establish preconditions to channel the greed and self-interest of its citizens (van den Berg, 2013). One method would be to turn to a green economy, which includes the direct valuation of natural capital and a full cost accounting regime in which costs can be accounted for by the entity that harms the animals, in this case the meat producing business (van den Berg and Meindertsma, 2013).
One of the six virtues of business is responsibility, a business must try to be a responsible citizen of the planet (van den Berg and Meindertsma, 2013). Consider in a green economy where meat producing businesses had to include the price of an animal’s life into the price of the meat, it would then become so expensive it would be considered a luxury good. If people were to be charged a higher price for animal products then demand for beef would fall, and less beef would be produced. Although to some people it may seem absurd for meat to be priced as a luxury good, taking the life of an animal should not be something we take so effortlessly for granted.