Meat more expensive, vegetables cheaper: Greenpeace calls for tax redistribution

Meat more expensive, vegetables cheaper
Greenpeace calls for a redistribution of taxes

Cheap offers for meat, milk and eggs are coming under increasing criticism. Because species-appropriate animal husbandry is not possible in this way. In order to guarantee more animal welfare and at the same time to relieve the consumer, Greenpeace is now calling for a redistribution of VAT. There is a contradiction from the FDP.

In the debate about an end to constant price wars for food, the environmental organization Greenpeace is campaigning for higher VAT on animal products. “The new federal government should adjust the value added tax for meat and dairy products to the regular rate of 19 percent,” said agricultural expert Matthias Lambrecht to the newspapers of the Funke media group. “In return, it can lower the VAT on fruit and vegetables or eliminate it entirely.”

The co-governing FDP promptly objected to this. Clarifications are due in the new year about financing more animal welfare in the stables, including through surcharges in the supermarket. Lambrecht explained that such changes in VAT would relieve consumers and create incentives for more environmentally friendly and climate-friendly consumption of plant-based foods. At the same time, farms needed targeted support for better animal husbandry. Those consumers who buy meat and dairy products should pay for this through a tax or levy. It is not about telling people what they should eat, but simply about enforcing the polluter pays principle.

The FDP agricultural expert Gero Hocker, on the other hand, said: “To want to achieve more animal welfare and climate protection by increasing the VAT on meat is window dressing.” It does not serve as a “steering tax for the re-education of the citizens”, and an increase in certain products would make the already complicated system even more incomprehensible. In addition, there is a great risk that money from additional tax revenues will not reach farmers in the stables in a targeted manner.

“No junk prices” for groceries

The debate about extremely cheap prices, especially for meat, flared up again at the turn of the year. The new Federal Agriculture Minister, Cem Özdemir of the Greens, took up this aspect and emphasized that there should be “no more junk prices” for food that would ruin farms and prevent more animal welfare. The former minister Julia Klöckner from the CDU had also repeatedly warned that meat should not be “junk goods” and had campaigned for more appreciation.

From a feasibility study for the ministry, models are on the table of how financing could look so that farmers are not left with additional costs for better stables. According to the expert opinion of a commissioned law firm, price surcharges are in principle legally possible for consumers – however, a strict earmarking of the income only for German animal keepers would be problematic.

A feasible way would be to increase the VAT rate from a reduced 7 to a full 19 percent for animal products or for all foods. An expert commission from the ministry had favored an “animal welfare tax” – with conceivable surcharges of 40 cents per kilogram of meat and sausage, 2 cents per kilo for milk and dairy products, and 15 cents per kilo for cheese and butter. It could be implemented as a consumption tax. According to the feasibility study, this would also be a viable option, for example with excise duties on coffee.

“Real animal welfare offensive” with animal welfare label

In the coalition agreement between the SPD, the Greens and the FDP there is no specific definition. A “system supported by market participants” is to be developed in order to use the revenues to promote running costs and investments for a specific purpose without “burdening the trade with bureaucratic burdens”.

FDP expert Hocker emphasized that a “real animal welfare offensive” was needed with a quick introduction of the agreed, binding and transparent animal welfare label. “This means that consumers can also take responsibility themselves at the shop counter.” A compensation for possible price surcharges for meat and sausage, among other things, is calling for consumer advice centers – by charging fruit, vegetables and pulses with an even lower VAT rate than the already reduced 7 percent. A commission on the future of agriculture set up by the Federal Cabinet also named a VAT cut to promote fruit and vegetables as an option for financial incentives.

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