World / Science & Health

Sausage-loving Germans chew on plan to tax meat to protect climate

Reuters

German lawmakers on Wednesday proposed raising the sales tax on meat to help protect the climate and improve animal welfare, kindling a debate in a country renowned for its love of sausages.

Meat in Germany benefits from a reduced value added tax rate of 7 percent, and the idea is to raise that to the standard 19 percent.

“I favor abolishing the VAT reduction for meat and using it (the increased revenues) instead for more animal welfare,” Greens agriculture spokesman Friedrich Ostendorff told Die Welt newspaper.

His counterpart from the Social Democratic Party, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative-led coalition government, told the same paper that could be a way forward.

Some Greens have highlighted research showing the livestock sector is responsible for about 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions through cows producing methane and production processes — comparable to all direct emissions from cars, planes, ships and other forms of transportation.

In the first half of 2019, abattoirs in Germany slaughtered 29.4 million pigs, cows, sheep, goats and horses, said the Federal Statistics Office.

Including poultry, they produced 3.9 million tons of meat, with pork — the main ingredient for a wide variety of sausages available throughout the country — topping the list.

More expensive meat might in theory reduce those numbers as some people cut their consumption to save money.

The German farmers association said that farmers, not the state, need support to develop their livestock holdings, for example allowing animals more space to be reared in.

Albert Stegemann, a spokesman for agricultural affairs in Merkel’s party, was open to the VAT suggestion and agreed that the additional revenues should be put toward helping livestock farmers restructure.

Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner — from the same party as Stegemann but part of the government rather than the legislature — welcomed the discussion about animal welfare but rejected the idea of dealing with it with tax hikes. She offered no concrete alternatives.