Germany debates whether to increase VAT on meat

With animal welfare and environmental groups in Germany demanding changes to agriculture, the government has raised the issue of introducing a meat tax.

This topic has dominated politics in the last year, and Lower Saxony’s conservative agriculture minister, Barbara Otte-Kinast (CDU) suggested when launching “green week” that it could be on the table.

The minister said in an interview that the tax could generate more income that would be spent on improving animal welfare “At the cash register, we know that it will not be paid voluntarily. We don’t need to bet on that. We probably need a special tax,” she added.

At the moment, meat in Germany is subject to a reduced tax rate of 7%, rather than the standard rate of 19%. It’s estimated that, each year, the average German eats around 60kg of meat a year and, in total, the country spends around €23.4 billion a year on meat.

An increase in VAT could, according to Federal Environment Agency figures, mean extra revenue of €5.2 billion a year.

Politicians from the Greens, SPD, and CDU have all spoken in favour of adding a higher rate of VAT on meat products, and that could even be put forward as a proposal to be implemented across the EU, with revenue being used to support farmers in improving their animal welfare standards.

Other EU countries, including Sweden and Denmark have been debating the same issue for several years. However, no EU country currently imposes a meat tax.

There are arguments against the idea, too. For example, critics argue that an increase in price wouldn’t affect consumption, and that the revenue wouldn’t be spent on animal welfare – they would just be included in the general budget.

And the German Farmers’ Association says that “neither animal welfare nor climate protection is served if German farmers continue to invest in higher animal welfare standards and the market is supplied with lower animal welfare standards from other EU countries at low prices”.

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