Meat tax better for people, animals than tobacco tax

Cigarette pack warning

Imagine the looks Hitler would get if he paraded down Jerusalem’s main street waving. They couldn’t be much worse than the expressions of pure horror reflected on the faces of the Proposition 29 – Tobacco Tax for Cancer Research – proponents and every other person within hearing distance when I told them I was opposed to cancer research and would be voting against the tax.

The June 5 California presidential primary ballot will give voters the opportunity to add a $1 tax to every pack of cigarettes, making the total tax $1.87, and bringing in about $735 million a year in new tax revenues, according to a 2012 report by the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. The majority will go to fund more biomedical cancer research and set up and oversight committee. This money is projected to decrease as the sale of cigarettes drops, another goal of the proposition.

Reducing cigarette consumption would be great, and if the millions from the new tax were going to California’s general fund to help keep the educational and social programs suffering from our crushing $26 billion deficit alive and kicking, my Prop. 29 friends sacrificing their Sunday to stand out front of Whole Foods would have been happy to hear I supported the tax.

Beagles smoking for animal testingPeople choose to smoke. Everyone knows smoking is harmful. We don’t need more animal experiments to prove this. In fact, cigarette companies performed innumerable cruel experiments on animals, mostly beagles, who were forced to inhale smoke through holes cut into their throats. These experiments, and many conducted by anti-smoking organizations, could not produce lung cancer in the dogs and were used by Big Tobacco to back up its early claims that cigarette smoke does not cause cancer.

It was not until we started using human trials that the direct and clear link between smoking and cancer became undeniably apparent. With 106,000 people dying, according the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, annually from adverse reactions to prescription drugs that have been extensively tested on animals, it’s obvious that the biological differences between species makes animals poor stand-ins for humans.

If people chose to smoke, they need to deal with the consequences, not expect thousands of animals who would recoil at the smell of tobacco to be tortured and killed to find a cure for the cancer they willingly brought upon themselves.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about one in every five deaths in the United States is caused by smoking, accounting for 443,000 deaths annually. The CDC also notes that the top two causes of death in the country are heart disease and cancer.

In 2008, 616,000 people died from heart disease alone, and obesity ranked higher on the CDC’s risk factor for developing the disorder than smoking.

If we are so keen on taxing people’s unhealthy behaviors to fund the health costs of their indulgence ($108 billion for coronary heart disease in 2010), then we should really be looking to tax meat and milk.

Tax meat? Sound radical? Undergoing a surgery where your ribs are torn open and your heart stopped should sound a lot more radical than stopping to consume the antibiotic- and hormone-ridden flesh of other species of animals.

Along with innumerable other studies, the Harvard School of Public Health released its own study in the last few weeks that found that “red meat consumption is associated with an increased risk of total, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality.”

As with tobacco research, we have only to use common sense to see what the Western diet has done to our health rather than continue subjecting animals to more experimentation. When looking at cultures that consume little to no animal products, such as in rural China or South America, we see few instances of the chronic health problems that plague our enlightened societies.

Aside from the health damage associated with eating meat and drinking milk, the effects of the livestock industry on the environment should be reason enough to tax it into oblivion. Low estimates put the greenhouse gas emissions from growing animals for food at 18 percent of total emissions, high estimates go up to 51 percent.

Even the low estimate, from the United Nation’s report Livestock’s Long Shadow, shows that livestock production accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than all transportation in the world combined.

A recent study published in the journal Climate Changeconducted by researchers at the Universityof Gothenburg, Sweden, proposed a modest meat and milk tax in the European Union citing the effect the tax would have on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

An article by bioethicist Peter Singer which appeared in the NY Daily News also proposed a tax on meat.

“Meat-eaters impose costs on others, and the more meat they eat, the greater the costs,” Singer wrote. “They push up our health insurance premiums, increase Medicare and Medicaid costs for taxpayers, pollute our rivers, threaten the survival of fishing communities in the Gulf of Mexico, push up food prices for the world’s poor, and accelerate climate change.”

Not even smoking a pack a week can boast that.

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