Greenpeace calls for measures for animal welfare: the introduction of an animal welfare tax – and full value added tax on meat and milk. Consumers should cost almost ten euros more per month.

By Birgit Schmeitzner, ARD capital studio

Promoting animal welfare while protecting the climate – this is Greenpeace’s approach. According to Martin Hofstetter, agricultural expert at the environmental organization, livestock husbandry in its current form has no future. But for an agricultural turnaround, money is needed. According to Greenpeace, this should be paid for by the consumer, the state must create the appropriate system and pass the money on to the farmers.

Animal welfare tax and full VAT

Specifically, the environmental organization proposes a combination of two measures. First: increase the VAT on meat and milk. At present, seven percent is due on meat and milk, which Hofstetter calls "indirect subsidies". The agriculture expert from Greenpeace proposes an increase to the standard rate of 19 percent.

In return, the VAT on plant-based foods could be reduced so that "there is social compensation". Greenpeace assumes that a change in VAT will reduce the consumption of meat and milk. According to the calculations of the environmental organization, government revenues could amount to 3.5 billion euros per year.

Greenpeace sees the second adjustment screw in the introduction of an animal welfare tax, from which farms with organic farming and particularly animal-friendly husbandry would be excluded. In order to keep the bureaucracy under control, the environmental organization proposes that this tax be levied on dairies, cheese factories and slaughterhouses.

For the liter of milk, Hofstetter has in mind a premium of 1.5 cents. A kilogram of meat would have to be around 50 cents more expensive. The environmental organization assumes that this tax would raise up to 4.5 billion euros annually. Money that could be used to finance better animal husbandry.

Concerns about emissions-based tax

Greenpeace had a third measure examined by the think tank "Forum okologische-Soziale Marktwirtschaft" (FoS): a tax on meat and dairy products, which is based on the CO2 emissions of production in the resulting follow-up costs.

In the opinion of FoS expert Ann-Cathrin Beermann, such a tax would be the most efficient instrument to induce consumers to adopt a climate-friendly attitude. But: With an average meat and milk consumption per person and month, this route would cost eleven euros more. The implementation is also legally difficult.

Greenpeace has therefore rejected this approach. According to the calculations, the combination of the other two instruments would mean almost ten euros more per month for the consumer.

What can be done?

Greenpeace sees political allies in both the Union and the Greens. According to Martin Hofstetter, politicians in Lower Saxony and North Rhine-Westphalia are in agreement that the conversion of factory farming is necessary and that it must be financed.

For the animal welfare spokeswoman for the Greens in the Bundestag, Renate Kunast, the Greenpeace paper is not enough. According to Kunast, "the debate about funding alone" falls short. An overall concept is required for a conversion of animal husbandry: from higher minimum standards, labeling of all animal foods and secure financing.

FDP: Taxes may not be levied for a specific purpose

The FDP thinks little of the Greenpeace plans – mainly because taxes should not be raised for a specific purpose. Carina Konrad, the deputy chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee in the Bundestag, refers to the corresponding assessment by the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Bundestag’s Scientific Service. Konrad advocates an "appreciation offensive" for agriculture and a change in consumer awareness.

CDU: Meat must "not become a luxury product again"

The CDU politician Alois Gerig, who heads the Agriculture Committee in the Bundestag, is also skeptical. He worries that meat "may become a luxury product again". For many it is now a staple food and is therefore "rightly taxed at a reduced rate". The CDU politician is of the opinion that an animal welfare label would bring more. In this way one could motivate the consumer to consciously choose meat from better husbandry.