A meat tax? More money for bratwurst and Schnitzel? Just a year or two ago, such a demand would have triggered a heated summer theater à la Veggieday. In the great excitement competition politicians and media commentators would have insulted the price increase as a harbinger of ecodicture, scourged the enjoyment as once the strict penitential sermon Savonarola; as a calculated provocation of some backbencher who wanted to use only the media doldrums to get even a little bit of attention.
But the pitch has changed. Only a few voices complain about the possible meat tax as reflexive as in the world as an "eco-goose". Most commentators are remarkably serious about the potential price increase if it achieves its goal. Apparently, the consensus has shifted and the conviction is confirmed: too much cheap meat harms climate, water and biodiversity and brings with it that animals suffer. If you want to change that, you have to pay for the change - even if that can mean eating meat less often, because values demand their price. The state must also take care of that because the consumer alone is overwhelmed with it.
The taboo break of a price increase is therefore no longer. But would a tax on goulash and Leberkäs right? The answer is yes - even if it is imperfect and needs to be part of a bigger effort.
Symbols that work
Why is? Thomas Schröder, the president of the German Animal Welfare Association, had demanded a few days ago to levy a levy on meat and dairy products. The additional income should help farmers to improve their stable buildings and do more for the welfare of their livestock.
Thus, Schröder took up a proposal that has brought a circle of competence of the Federal Agriculture Ministry, its scientific advisory board and the Federal Environmental Agency several times in the game. Now also agricultural politicians from the Bundestag were open-minded, right down to the CDU parliamentary group. The SPD politician Rainer Spiering proposes that the VAT on meat products no longer favored with seven percent, as it is common for staple foods, but to raise them to the general rate of 19 percent, and the Green Party politician Friedrich Ostendorff refers to the ecologically counterproductive Rule, which makes the state with vegan oat milk demand twelve points more tax than with the country liver sausage.
Although EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger hurriedly criticized a similar alignment as a national "symbolic policy". But Ostendorff's proposal is justified because symbols in politics - quite contrary to what Oettingers utterances suggest - are enormously important. They increase credibility when values and practice are no longer matched. In addition, with such a tax increase, an estimated four to five billion euros per year would come together for more animal welfare. This would amount to almost the sum that the Scientific Advisory Council for Agricultural Policy has set as a prerequisite for a comprehensive change in livestock farming. So you can start with the money.
Too low price increase
The tax advocates from the agricultural committee, of course, got even more headwinds, partly with arguments that really need to be considered. For example, an exception for organic meat would have to be guaranteed. This is already drastically more expensive than conventionally produced, and a VAT increase would increase its price even more than that of cheap meat. This would absurdly punish better handling of plants, resources and animals.
If only VAT were adjusted as proposed, price increases would also be too low to significantly reduce meat consumption. 1.64 euros instead of 1.49 for the bratwurst: The few cents do not make much difference to the majority of consumers. Moreover, no purpose limitation is foreseen. Therefore, it would be uncertain whether the additional funds actually flow as intended into animal welfare. Direct levies on meat would be cheaper.