Foreign Secretary Liz Truss: We should support our farmers, not tax meat

·2-min read
Liz Truss (Leon Neal/PA) (PA Wire)
Liz Truss (Leon Neal/PA) (PA Wire)

A Cabinet minister on Monday dismissed calls for the UK to introduce a meat tax as campaigners accused the Government of hypocrisy on climate change.

Britain is using its presidency of the Cop26 summit in Glasgow to press the rest of the world to step up its commitments on reducing global emissions and the use of fossil fuels.

But green activists say the UK’s own track record has been undermined by recent moves to give the go ahead to a coal mine in Cumbria, a new oil field off the coast of the Shetland Islands and the slashing of taxes on domestic air travel.

Ministers have also been facing calls to introduce a meat tax — a levy which would cover the environmental and health costs associated with its production and consumption.

However, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss defended Britain’s record, insisting she was “proud” of the UK’s leadership and rejecting the introduction of a meat tax.

“I wouldn’t support a meat tax,” she told Sky News. “It’s really important that we support our fantastic British farming industry and rather than using the stick to encourage people to become more climate friendly, we use the carrot.”

Calls for the tax were made again by campaigners on Monday, which is World Vegan Day.

A report last year by the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change said 20 per cent of Britain’s emissions came from food production and consumption.

The group said cutting red meat consumption by half was vital if the food system was to stay within “sustainable environmental limits”.

Over the weekend the Environment Secretary George Eustice suggested the Government was considering a carbon tax on imported meat and other products.

But officials said Mr Eustice was strongly opposed to a specific meat tax levied on domestic farmers, saying a carbon tax on food imports would make home-grown produce more competitive while punishing polluting countries.

Last week’s Budget raised further questions over the UK’s green credentials as Chancellor Rishi Sunak slashed taxes on all domestic flights by half.

According to the independent fiscal watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility, the move will create an extra 410,000 passenger journeys a year.

Ms Truss insisted the move to cut air passenger duty was “about connectivity across the United Kingdom”. She added: “The way to reduce climate emissions from flying isn’t to stop flying, it’s to create the new generation of next technology which we are doing.”

But Jamie Peters, campaigns director at Friends of the Earth, criticised the UK’s record on climate action, saying: “There are 40 prospective damaging coal, oil and gas projects under consideration. Those are the facts, and whatever ministers say, you have to look at what the Government are actually doing and the reality is that these claims are hypocritical.”

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