MP Column: Meat tax would be bad for agricultural sector

submitted by Dane Lloyd, MP Sturgeon River-Parkland

If eating beef, poultry, pork, or any other kind of meat, is an essential part of your diet, there is a new movement of elites looking to slap you with a tax.

It’s as ridiculous as it sounds. It’s a regressive tax that will increase the price of food, disproportionately hitting working families and it reinforces false narratives about Canada’s sustainable meat sector.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that this latest attack against Canadian consumers and ranchers was levelled by PETA, suggesting that eating meat deserves a “sin tax” just like tobacco and alcohol. PETA has spent much of its existence trying to find their way into the spotlight with outrageous tactics and press releases, but this one hits close to home and it’s picking up steam. In fact, it’s no longer fringe groups seeking to impose this tax; governments around the world are beginning to float this proposal.

Canada’s meat sector is the best in the world. Here in Alberta, our agriculture sector has provided safe, reliable, nutritious and ethically sourced meat products for over a century. It is an industry that all levels of government should rigorously champion, not punish with the heavy hand of the state.

For younger, growing children, or older people who need to maintain muscle mass, eating protein is critical for health. These proteins can be sourced from a variety of foods, but meat is one of the best sources for protein. Let’s not pretend that animal protein doesn’t play a role in achieving a balanced diet in the lives of the vast majority of Canadians.

When it comes to whether or not the production and consumption of meat is harmful to the environment, groups like PETA continue to push false and harmful information. Alberta’s own Environment Minister Shannon Phillips weeks ago helped advance this narrative by suggesting eating less meat is an important part of a more sustainable lifestyle – a shocking move considering what an important role our beef ranchers have in Alberta’s economy and heritage.

Claims about the environmental harm and large carbon footprint of Canada’s sustainable agricultural sector are irresponsible and dishonest. Around the world, developing countries have engaged in mass deforestation to create more grazing land. These unsustainable practices do cause environmental harm, but in Canada, we have ample grazing land provided by the prairies and the practice of deforestation is negligible. Canada’s meat sector is world leading and environmentally sustainable.

This issue matters. It matters for our Alberta ranchers who represent the largest cattle-producing province in Canada, with 41 per cent of the national inventory of cattle. In 2016, agri-food industries contributed $6.6 billion to the provincial GDP. Our producers are the best in the world, they contribute enormously to our economy and communities and they deserve better than to be targeted by special interest groups.

This issue also matters to consumers, you and I. We have a right to make choices that we believe are best for ourselves and our families. It would be way out of line for any level of government to try and tax families for making responsible choices to feed their families. Elected officials from across the political spectrum and across every region of Canada should rightly speak out against this ridiculous proposal.

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