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Taxes on meat?

In 1950, the average inhabitant of the Netherlands consumed 35 kilograms of meat per person per year. Today, it is close to 90 kilograms. Meat consumption, however, brings along several problems. Livestock production is a major contributor to climate change and the loss of global biological diversity. Furthermore, it makes a major claim on scarce agricultural land worldwide. High meat consumption is also detrimental to our health, not to mention the welfare of the animals themselves. That is why for decades there have been calls to impose taxes on meat consumption in the same way as is done on alcohol, cigarettes and fuels.

However, a tax on meat raises many questions, such as:

  • Does a meat tax constitute an indefensible invasion of personal privacy?
  • What is the behavioral effect of a tax on meat?
  • What are the environmental and health effects?
  • What are the economic effects?
  • How can a meat tax be practically implemented?
  • What is public support, and how can we increase it?
  • How can we ensure that a meat tax does not hit poorer households harder? Is a meat tax fair?
  • Is a tax the right steering instrument at all? What does a meat tax mean for livestock farming?

In ten interactive meetings, you will learn to look at the pros and cons of a meat tax from different perspectives.

Group assignment
In groups of 3-4 students – you can make up the groups amongst yourself as long as interdisciplinarity is assured – you will write a science-based policy report for the government discussing the pros and cons of a meat tax. Groups can either choose answering one or more of the questions raised in the introduction, or (in consultation with their lecturer) come up with a topic of their own. Additional questions to be answered in the report:

  • Are there experiences with a meat tax in other countries? How is this meat tax designed?
  • What is the rationale for a meat tax?

In addition to the policy report, you have the option to develop a creative product. For example, a poster that summarizes the main recommendations, a video that explains the argumentation, or an infographic that visualizes the findings.

In the last meeting, you present the policy report to the group.


With a proviso, a discussion is intended with consultants of Ernst & Young who recently wrote a policy report on a meat tax

Marc Davidson (Philosophy of sustainability and environment)
Floor Binkhorst (Radboud Honours Academy)

Study materials
Reading material will be available on line or through Brightspace

The meetings will take place on Monday evenings from 18.30 until 21.00.
(Note: the first meeting starts at 17.30 with sandwiches and soup)

1. Introduction to the studio: taxes on meat? – 3 October

Interactive lecture by Marc Davidson
Explanation group assignment and forming groups

Readings: Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science360(6392), 987-992.

Säll, S., & Gren, I. M. (2012). Green consumption taxes on meat in Sweden. (Swedish Univ of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Economics, Uppsala, 2012)

2. The ethics of a meat tax – 10 October

Interactive lecture by Marc Davidson

3. The economics of a meat tax – 17 October

Interactive lecture by Marc Davidson or guest speaker

4. The politics of a meat tax – 31 October

Interactive lecture by Marc Davidson or guest speaker

5. Becoming an interdisciplinary researcher – 7 November

Workshop by Floor Binkhorst

Working on group assignment

6. The psychology of a meat tax – 14 November

Interactive lecture by Marc Davidson or guest speaker

7. Work session – 21 November

The groups present their plans for the group assignment

Working on group assignment

8. Work session– 28 November

Groups 1 and 2 each bring in 2 (ethical/political/economic) dilemma’s regarding meat tax, and moderate a plenary discussion

Working on group assignment

9. Work session – 5 December

Groups 3 and 4 each bring in 2 (ethical/political/economic) dilemma’s regarding meat tax, and moderate a plenary discussion

Working on group assignment

10. Presentations – 12 December

All groups present their policy reports