Recently, the government has announced a meat tax. A tax on meat that will cause the prices of red meats such a pork and beef to rise.
As you can probably imagine, Twitter wasn’t too happy about it. Many people, particularly those on the right of the political spectrum, have been eager to call it out and criticise it. Many referring to it as an example of the nanny state, the government telling us what we can and can’t spend our own money on. There’s no denying that this new policy has caused quite a bit of controversy. And it’s easy to see why. We Brits love a banger!
But despite what many think, once you put aside the emotional aspects of nostalgia and want, a tax on red meat actually makes a fair amount of sense.
What is the meat tax?
It’s hard to deny that our country has got an obesity problem! People are dying at alarming rates from diseases caused by obesity such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
As well as costing lives, it’s also costing money. And when I say money, I mean upwards of £5 billion a year!
The purpose of the meat tax is to help curb the levels of obesity and discourage people from eating too much red meat, which has been proven to be linked to obesity.
It’s not the nanny state
As said in the introduction, the main criticism of this policy is that it’s an example of the ever expanding nanny state. It’s not fair for the government to stop you from eating sausages, if that’s what you want to eat, you have the choice to eat what you choose.
This argument misses the point of what a nanny state is. A nanny state is when the government puts down strict rules of what you can and can’t do, and taxes heavily so that it can give ‘free’ things to people.
There is no law saying that you can’t eat red meat, it’s only a slight increase in the price. When you look at what obesity is doing to our NHS’ budget, this is only realistic.
If I were to smoke lots of cigarettes, and you were to be a non smoker, it’s unfair that you should have to pay for my healthcare, should I need lung treatment as a consequence.
The same logic must apply to obesity. If I eat an unhealthy diet, and you eat a healthy diet, you shouldn’t have to pay for my healthcare when I need treatment for diabetes or heart disease, which you do under the current system.
Surely it would be more nanny statist to essentially say that if you live an unhealthy lifestyle, the tax payer will pick up the bill when the consequences of your choices come to fruition.
It’s not the nanny state, it’s accepting the consequences (at least the financial ones) of your lifestyle choices.
The government can’t do it all for us.
However, despite the fact that it means that people will essentially be paying for their own healthcare should their poor diets lead to health complications. There is more that needs to be done. Although not necessarily by the government.
The government is often introducing new policies to help combat obesity. Some of them are likely to be effective, others not so much.
But we cannot rely on the state to make us healthy. As individuals, we need to make better decisions about the life we live, this includes what we eat, but also exercise, not drinking too much, and not smoking too much. But also a society, we need to do more to discourage unhealthy lifestyles that lead to obesity.
A good example of this would be the recent Cosmopolitan cover that included Tess Holliday, an obviously obese woman who instead of trying to make better choices, parades around her body as if her arteries aren’t clogged up with fat.
That example, is a symptom of a society that glorifies obesity, completely ignoring the effects it has on our health and NHS.
Slow down on the meat
Eating an abundance of meat, has been clearly linked to obesity. And that’s why it’s important to address another common criticism, that people will eat less meat.
Is that really such a bad thing? Nobody is saying that you have to go vegan, I’m not a vegan, I love a good bacon sandwich, or a juicy burger. But it’s not necessary at all to eat meat as often as we do. Cutting down on meat is not a bad thing.
Another criticism that often gets launched at this new tax is that it will hurt the poor, making things worse for people who already have it bad.
But the reality is that even without this new tax, it’s cheaper to not eat red meat than it is to eat it. In fact, that’s why I was initially sceptical of it. It won’t reduce the rate of obesity because that idea relies on the false premise that people are eating red meat because of its low price. Whilst this is true, that it won’t be guaranteed to end obesity, it will help to ensure that the NHS costs of obesity related illness is covered by the people who put themselves in that situation.
A possible alternative
Of course, in a privatised healthcare system such as America, a meat tax would not be justified as people who lead unhealthy lives have to pay for their medical care anyway.
An alternative to this tax could be to have a rule that people who need NHS because they’ve made bad choices, have to pay a bill to cover the costs. This is an idea that parliament should definitely consider.
The meat tax is a new tax introduced by the government to combat obesity, which has been linked to red meat.
Whilst some claim that it’s an example of a nanny state, in actuality, it is actually forcing people to take responsibility for their own actions. If you eat a bad diet, you should have to pay for any medical procedures that happen as a consequence.
However, as well as this new tax, we also need to make better decisions about our lifestyles, and to encourage others to do the same. This can only be done by us, not the government.