Cuenca High Life logo

Expat Life

Criminalizing meat-eating and ‘sin taxes’ on the agenda, but other meal threats loom even larger

Editor’s note: This is the first of a four-part series about the impact of the human diet on the global climate crisis and strategies to deal with it.

By John Keeble

Meat eating’s damage to global climates, forests and wildlife is forcing radical control measures onto political agendas – including criminalising it and imposing penally-high taxation.

At the same time, technology is on the brink of replacing animal flesh with lab-produced meats, and the plant-based food industries are already making huge inroads into meat and dairy consumption.

Consumer shifts – already being felt extensively in the dairy industry – are pushing meat producers towards what one influential report, by the independent technology think tank RethinkX, predicts will lead to the collapse of the meat and dairy industries within 11 years.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says the livestock sector alone produces 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions –  more than cars, aviation, ships and other transport put together.

In addition, overconsumption of meat is threatening a global epidemic of antibiotic-resistant superbugs as well as causing cancers in humans.

Despite the growth of alternatives, world meat production is running at record levels as poorer countries develop their economies and want a share of animal foods. Add population growth to this situation, and you can see the runaway dangers to the planet and its creatures.

It is clear that something has to be done. Are we, as a species, going to eat our way into extinction when all our resources have gone and the planet is an inhospitable hotspot?

Criminalising meat-eating: This idea was put forward recently in Britain by Michael Mansfield, a Queen’s Counsel once described as “the king of human rights work” in Britain’s most senior courts.  He says we should criminalise meat eating to save the planet and he is trying to get political support for it. He wants a law against what he calls “ecocide”.

It is the kind of idea that whips up a dramatic reaction – from fear and anger in meat-eaters to hope in those who see the damage to the planet and those who are horrified by the appalling cruelty to animals.

How many animals are killed per second worldwide? Take a look at this.

Manfield’s campaign is unlikely to get much political traction at the moment, but the climate emergency could change that in the next couple of years.

“Sin-tax” on meat: Fitch Solutions, a marketing specialist firm, predicts that German political pressure to increase VAT on red meat from 7% to 19% could be echoed worldwide as governments try to cut consumption.

Its report pinpoints reasons governments would want a heavy tax on meat: it is a proven cause of cancer, it damages the environment, and it is very cruel to animals.

In the difficult international efforts to cut climate damaging gases, higher taxes on meat – and possibly dairy – are easy to implement and present to populations as necessary and beneficial (especially, as suggested in Germany, if the tax money is used for animal welfare).

Meat alternatives: Plant-based foods are taking consumers by storm across developed countries including the U.S., UK and in Europe. Meat and dairy businesses are going vegan – among the latest is Vion, the Dutch meat giant with a capacity to slaughter 2,500 cattle a week. It will be producing “vegan meat” to cater for the vegan and flexitarian markets.

The trend towards plant-based food is most notable in the growth of veganism and, even more strongly, the growth in the number of flexitarians who want to eat mostly plant-based but still eat some meat and fish. Sainsbury’s, one of the UK’s biggest supermarket chains, said its poll found that 91 per cent of Brits claim to be flexitarians.

In the US, penetration by plant-based food includes the US Air Force, which is introducing vegan and vegetarian options to appeal to 18- to 24-year-old recruits who are “more socially aware”, Mike Baker, of the Air Force Services Center told Fox Business.

In commercial markets, plant-based food options are increasing rapidly and some – burgers, of example – are getting rave reviews. Restaurant and supermarket chains are chasing to keep up with demand.

Animal-free meat: The commercial production of meat and fish in laboratory-type factories are about to become reality.

RethinkX, which specialises in assessing the speed of technological change, predicts that the beef and dairy industries will collapse by 2030 because of new methods of producing animal-based foods. Other livestock industries, including pigs, chickens and fish, will follow.

Its report Rethinking Food and Agriculture 2020-2030 points to emerging technologies for producing meat and fish in factories without any actual animals, birds or fish. It says precision biology and a worldwide computer-led production model are about to radically change the food industry.

“We are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruption of agriculture in history,” the report says.

Food engineers will construct meat at a molecular level and upload designs to databases for specialist designers to modify and develop into localised foods.

“Instead of growing a whole cow to break it down into products, food will be built up at the molecular level to precise specifications,” says RethinkX. This will result in far more localised food-production “that is more stable and resilient than the one it replaces”.

The impact on the environment will be profound, virtually eliminating the negative effects of animal industries and commercial fishing, it adds.

“By 2030, the number of cows in the U.S. will have fallen by 50% and the cattle farming industry will be all but bankrupt,” says the report. “All other livestock industries will suffer a similar fate, while the knock-on effects for crop farmers and businesses throughout the value chain will be severe.

“[The new food production system] will have profound implications not just for the industrial agriculture industry, but for the wider economy, society, and the environment.”

The report says a driving force will be customer demand for factory-grown products being offered at between 20 and 50 per cent of slaughtered-animal prices. Farm values will slump, adds the report, with vast amounts of cattle land becoming available for a “reimagined” America.

The combination of all these factors – damage to the planet, unacceptable cruelty, rising competition and political needs to control global warming – look like killing the meat, dairy and fish industries as uneconomic anachronisms.

How do you feel about that? Would you welcome future-friendly alternatives to meat hacked from living creatures? Or are you reaching for your gun?

John Keeble is an international photo-journalist living in Cuenca. He “retired” after 25 years with The Guardian in London and has spent the past 14 years giving media services to NGOs as well as writing about and illustrating social issues.


34 thoughts on “Criminalizing meat-eating and ‘sin taxes’ on the agenda, but other meal threats loom even larger

  1. The handwriting has been “On the wall” a long time, but most people cannot read it or don’t want to. In 1974, I gave up eating any flesh. Since moving to Salinas, Ecuador in 2013, I have eaten seafood a few times; having lived in Vilcabamba for nearly 4 years, I enjoy maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle. I’m not vegan; I have been but eating organic eggs seems to better suit my decades old but physically active body. Eating a plant-based diet is not an issue to me as I prefer to raise the veggies or fruit that I consume. It’s also safer; I’m certainly not in line to try lab made meats! Being a Deep Ecologist, I prefer living in an Eco-Hobbit House we designed and living with less impact on our planet.

  2. You have a great future as a stand up comic. If you would work farting dogs & cats into your routine, the clubs would need more seats to hold your fans. This will probably bring about a resurgence in the “pet rock” industry to replace those man made children’s toys. It is unfortunate that you only have 12 more years to enjoy your money before the end of the world (per “climate experts” that aren’t even meteorologists}. If the “global warming” doesn’t drown us from rising sea levels, other scientists have predicted a “mini ice age” in 15 years. Here is the link to those “facts”.

      1. My, My Sara. You are so sensitive. How can we have both global warming & a mini ice age that the “experts” are predicting? Why don’t you research all info rather than calling names when you disagree. God is in control. Not man.

    1. I agree. Real science is bullshit. I prefer to get my information from one of the popular alternative universes.

  3. I’d venture that we will overpopulate our way to extinction first but this is a verboten subject among politicians and religious leaders. Much safer to go after ‘meat’…

  4. Ah, the vegan (slave) diet, advocated by every autocratic society, from the Sumerians, the ancient Greeks, Hitler, Chairman Mao, to the modern U.S. All done to keep the slaves in Slave-landia just strong enough to work during the day, but not strong enough to recognize their enslavement. Add low-fat milk, margarine, and vegetable oils to the mix, and you have a recipe for centralized control of the masses.

    1. Good for you, Rob. All these vegans eating rice and beans saves more of the good stuff for us! I’m going to the Sunrise today to get a bacon cheeseburger, extra bacon.
      Imagine starving yourself on purpose because some yutz told you to starve yourself. Also, how do you rejuvenate bad land? You put cattle and sheep on it; they return mountains of mineral-rich manure and urine to the pasture. They eat the grass, tugging at the roots and stimulating them to grow, like exercise stimulates a muscle. Their digestive systems turn indigestible plant food into meat, milk, bones for bone broth, etc; Truly wonderful.
      Plato told his wealthy Greek society pals to feed the slaves “rice and beans, but no meat, lest they grow strong and rise up against you.” A smart guy. IQ of 180.

      1. I tried eating beans and rice. It turned me into an obese Diabetes II sufferer, taking higher and higher doses of Metformin, still barely controlling my blood sugar level. Since going back to a low carb, moderate fat and protein diet, I have dropped a total of 40 pounds (over the past ten years), and my blood sugar is totally in the normal range – no more Metformin, no more Diabetes!!!

        1. Obviously, if you ate mostly beans and rice, you would have problems…what about carrots, zucchini, eggplant, chochos, lentils, mushrooms, artichokes, asparagus, tomatoes, green beans, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, corn, peas, lettuce, sprouts, quinua….need I list more?? Whole wheat bread, limited sweets….

          1. Please read my OP again: I was diabetic, and I desperately wanted to get off the meds. My doctor told me that was impossible – well, I proved him wrong. I do eat a lot of vegetables, but only those low on the glycemic index, any leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, Swiss chard, asparagus, eggplant, and many, many more. Carrots are high carb, so I limit those, as well as sweet potatoes (which I love). I do not eat any grains or grain products, legumes pasta(including lentils), rice, bread, or potatoes (except an occasional baked small sweet potato). I do eat small amounts (a fistful) of nuts daily, and add seeds to my salads, and I have a half-cup of berries, or a few green apple slices for dessert. I’m extremely sensitive to sharp glucose spikes if I eat any high carb items, and try to avoid those spikes at all cost. By following this regimen, I have been able to lose the excess weight and have gotten off the Diabetes medication, not taken a single pill in over three months.

    2. And after all that – a heart attack! But I am actually on your side. I tried the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle many times, bc I do feel for the animals and I am horrified by the cruelty, but after a week or so, my craving for real butter, cream, eggs, cheese, and yes, meat, is so strong that I always “fall off the wagon.” I do believe that future generations will be eating a mostly plant-based diet, but this will have to be taught from early childhood. To expect us old folks, set in our ways, to change overnight, is simply unrealistic. My five centavitos.

        1. I do believe the vegetarian/vegan diet will eventually become the norm, when children are raised that way. I don’t believe in forcing and/or shaming meat eaters into submission to this lifestyle. This change will take time, maybe over several generations. Meanwhile, I certainly try to reduce my meat/fish use to flavoring,rather than main meal ingredients, such as stur-fried veggies with little bits of fish, pork, or chicken. I know this is a compromise, a drop in the bucket, but at 72 years of age, a lifelong meat eater, that’s all I can manage at this time. However, at least two of my four grandchildren (young adults) are already vegetarians, if not vegans. So yes, this is definitely the way of the future.

  5. Let’s see… In the 70’s we had the “new ice age coming” (didn’t happen), the there was “man made global warming”. Since it actually got cooler against the predictions, we now have “climate change”. This version is nice and ambiguous, so hard to disprove (not that there is any real proof). The thing that always stays the same is the “fix” is to give governments more of our money and more control over everything we do. Fascism/Socialism will fix our evil tendencies of wanting to eat, have a warm house, and drive to work. I find it interesting that the same group of people usually pushing organic/non-GMO are suggesting a change to lab grown meat-like tissues. It seems to me that the fix for the writer’s desire for population control and not killing chickens was an old movie – Soylent Green. Bon Apetit!

  6. Humans still are not and never will be herbivores. Crop growing is the most destructive industry ever developed.

    “Our brains are two-thirds fat. Of that, 20% is supposed to be comprised of an omega-3 fatty acid called DHA. There are no plant sources of DHA, only animal sources.” From: “Our Brains Need Animal Fat to Fully Function, Psychiatrist Says” at

    And “Contraception is the answer to climate change” at

    “The biggest driver of climate change and every other global headache you care to name – species extinction, deforestation, desertification, ocean acidification, pollution, fresh water scarcity, oceanic plastic, soil erosion, ‘irregular’ migration – is people. Too many of them, and born too fast.”

    1. This is incorrect. Fish get omega 3 from the algae they eat. That is, they don’t produce it themselves. The best source of omega 3 is algae. I do agree with you on the contraception idea. However, I have to disagree regarding your first statement. I’m an herbivore, have been for quite some time. And I’m human.

        1. Yes, I do, 1000 mcg’s about twice a week. Actually B12 is the only supplement I take. Most people after the age of 50 are low in B12. Generally speaking my wife and I eat a whole food plant based diet meaning no meat, dairy, or fish. We also avoid all chemicals and all oils. That last one is the hardest part when it comes to eating out. Thanks for asking!

  7. On the bright side, 12 of the top 20 climate change solutions are about food-fiber-soil & most are “shovel ready” (your daily pun-ishment). When we decide, hidden fossil fuel costs (e.g., damage to health, environment) will be included in price per tank-full rather than socialized (costs shared among each person damaged). Planet-friendly alternatives proceed from good governance (citizens who practice citizenship), informed purchasing, and savvy investors. See

Comments are closed.