Sugar and salt taxes: a scapegoat for more urgent concerns?

Over the past week, media have seen ministers invited to collect a £ 3 billion sugar and salt tax in a bid to help fight Britain’s addiction to processed foods – something Prime Minister Boris Johnson has seemed reluctant to introduce. The government National food strategy suggests that people’s unhealthy diets and their dependence on processed foods place an unnecessary burden on the NHS, and contributes to approximately 64,000 deaths each year. While we must recognize that Britain’s dysfunctional relationship with food consumption highlighted is a positive thing, the proposal still ignores a large-scale issue – our relationship to meat and dairy. Not only is our dependence on these products contributing to deteriorating health, it also takes us further and further away from our goals of tackling the climate crisis – which leaves me a little puzzled as to why the proposal does not recognize it.

The strategy reveals that 85% of the land used to feed the British population is dedicated to raising animals, yet animal products only provide 32% of our calorie intake. This clearly shows that more action needs to be taken with regard to the consumption of animal products – arguably even more urgent than the issue of the consumption of sugar and salt.

While unhealthy diets are certainly a cause for concern, taxes on sugar and salt will not reduce the environmental impacts of UK diets.

While unhealthy diets are certainly a cause for concern, taxes on sugar and salt will not reduce the environmental impacts of UK diets. With the report not sharing any details of a meat tax matching the sugar and salt taxes, it is of great concern that the government remains so blissfully ignorant of such a pervasive problem, especially when it has such a detrimental effect on the already disastrous climate. crisis.

While one might be reluctant to delve into the heated debate between meat lovers and vegetarians / vegans, it is clear that something needs to be done to reduce the overall consumption of animal products. Although the report does not specifically mention meat and dairy products, it does indicate that as a population our consumption should be reduced by at least 30%. Having been a vegetarian myself since my early teens and having reduced much of my dairy intake since I started college and living on my own, I often struggle to understand why people feel so poisonous. opposed to the idea of ​​limiting their consumption of meat and dairy products. It is not necessary for the entire population to completely eliminate their consumption of animal products, but a collective attempt to minimize our consumption will inevitably have a positive impact both on the general health of the population and on the environment.

A collective attempt to minimize our consumption will inevitably have a positive impact both on the general health of the population and on the environment.

The evidence is clear that our excessive consumption of meat and animal products has adverse effects on climate change, so why are so many people so outraged by the suggestion that we should make a conscious effort to reduce our consumption?

Perhaps the food industry itself needs to do more – Professor Rosemary Green suggests the idea of set limits on the meat content in ready meals, sandwiches and other processed foods, for example. This, combined with a wider offering of herbal options, could certainly have a positive impact on the meat consumption of the general population and reduce the risks and consequences of our current indulgences. However, I would say that another concept, perhaps more important, that needs special attention is the idea that meals must contain some form of meat substance in order to be “real meals”. Naturally, access to food has changed dramatically over the past century – whether it is agricultural products or imported fruits, vegetables and other food products – and perhaps this is the reason why people still feel so dependent on meat in their diet. daily food intake. The reality is, however, that we no longer need to be so addicted to eating meat – many of our jobs and lives are barely as hard as they would have been even in the early to mid-century. twentieth century, therefore a daily intake of large pieces of meat and excessive consumption of milk, cheese, etc., are largely unnecessary. By reducing the overall consumption of animal products, it would perhaps make people more grateful for the occasional steak and fine cheese – and it would mean that people are still able to support farmers and commerce.

That’s not to say that plant-based meat substitutes are perfect – they can often be ultra-processed and high in salt, which obviously brings us back to the issue of our high salt and sugar intake in which the proposition. already want to tax.

We must get out of the idea that meat is an essential element of our daily dishes

At the end of the day, we just need to move away from the idea that meat is an essential part of our daily dishes, as we can very clearly survive on limited portions – or even cut it out altogether. While it is certainly essential to protect the livelihoods of farmers and their lands to the extent possible, there will be nothing to see when the climate crisis escalates beyond a checkpoint. Without a stronger sense of encouragement to choose plant-based foods whenever possible, the urgently needed change in UK diets and our relationship with food is still a long way off, and we will inevitably face the consequences. of our ignorance.

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