Give tasty vegan foods a try

By Heather Moore

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

At this time of year, the last thing anyone wants to think about is paying more taxes. But there’s one tax I’m in favor of — and you should be, too, if you care about your health and the health of the planet: a sin tax on meat, cheese and other animal-based foods.

If Congress were to levy a 10-cent tax on every pound of meat sold in grocery stores and restaurants — and a modest sin tax on each dairy item and carton of eggs — it would not only stimulate the economy but also give people yet another incentive to give tasty vegan foods a try, which would then help to reduce the nation’s health care costs and its Sasquatch-size carbon footprint.

Americans have to pay excise taxes on cigarettes, alcohol and gasoline to help offset the health and environmental costs of these items, so it’s not too much of a leap to expect people to pay extra for unhealthy — and unnecessary — foods that harm people and animals, waste resources and contribute to climate change.

Before you balk at the thought of more taxes, consider this: We pay a tax on gasoline in order to motivate us to conserve fossil fuels, which in turn is aimed at reducing pollution and combating climate change, so shouldn’t we also pay a tax on animal-based foods for the very same reasons?

According to the United Nations, the production of meat and dairy foods requires more resources and causes more greenhouse-gas emissions than the production of plant-based foods. It takes roughly 1,000 gallons of water to produce just 1 gallon of milk, and it takes about 11 times more fossil fuel to produce a gram of animal protein than to produce a gram of plant protein.

A sin tax on animal-based foods would save resources and money if consumers refused to pay more for foods that carried it. As things stand now, many vegan foods are relatively inexpensive compared with meat, eggs and dairy products — even more so if you factor in all the medical bills that you can rack up if you eat a lot of fatty, cholesterol-laden animal foods that often contribute to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other common illnesses.

Hazardous to your health

Some scientists believe that eating animal-based foods can be just as hazardous to your health as smoking cigarettes, which have been federally taxed since 1864. Scientists with the University of Southern California came to this conclusion after tracking more than 6,000 people who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that those aged 50 to 65 who ate high-protein diets ... were much more likely to die prematurely. The study participants who ate protein from plant sources, including beans and nuts, tended to be healthier and live longer than those who ate animal protein.

It wasn’t the first study to compare animal-based foods to tobacco. Canadian researchers found that regular consumption of egg yolks is almost as bad for your heart as smoking, because eating egg yolks accelerates atherosclerosis in a manner similar to smoking cigarettes.

The government could save more lives by taxing meat, eggs and dairy products than it does by taxing tobacco products. After all, many more Americans eat these foods than smoke or chew tobacco. And if, by taxing animal-derived foods, politicians prompted consumers to choose more vegan ones, people wouldn’t have to pay more.

Heather Moore is a senior writer for the PETA Foundation.

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