Do we need a tax on ruminants? Some people think so because when ruminants digest vegetative matter methane gas is released. Therefore, for the health of the planet, they want to dramatically reduce the number of ruminants by taxing them like cigarettes.
There’s a lot of political theater playing out these days. It’s got people so emotionally keyed up that saying anything is an easy way to get on the wrong side of nearly everyone who lives and breathes. But some subjects really hit close to home and, when based on myths, they can be very dangerous if the myths inspire mob action. So, I’m treading lightly here with some insight hoping no reader puts words in my mouth and runs off down the road shouting that I’m a “this or that” and my business should be boycotted and taxed out of existence. What I am is a rancher who wants to raise livestock and peddle meat.
That’s why I’m concerned about proposals for taxing certain occupations and certain basic human food sources out of existence. If they are implemented, there can be some very harmful unintended consequences.
In societies where there’s majority rule, there’s a constant danger of a majority running roughshod over the minorities. In 2002 the USDA reported that of the 1,911,859 farms counted in 1997 it estimated that 69% of them raised at least some livestock. In 2018 it was reported that there were 2,029,200 farms. If 69% are still raising livestock then possibly 1,400,148 farms have livestock on them.1 2
Let’s assume there are two adults living on each farm with livestock. That works out to 2,800,296 voting age adults raising livestock. It’s estimated that there are 252,063,800 citizens of voting age. That means 98.9% of the voters do not raise livestock. So, if raising livestock is demonized by clever misguided pied pipers with personal agendas, then it’s very easy in our connected day and age to drum up enough votes against a handful of livestock owners. It’s really easy when the minority is being accused of animal cruelty, destroying the planet, and creating disease.3
As everyone knows, the beef industry has been under constant attack on numerous fronts. -- The war has made eating meat somewhat akin to substance abuse.
1. Some people preach that it’s unethical to kill an animal. -- That’s in spite of humans eating animals for well more than three million years and meat being credited for developing the large human brain.
2. Many claim that eating meat causes heart disease. -- Yet biologists say heart disease is mostly caused by skewed nutrients, antinutrients, and imbalances in the Omega-6 to Omega-3 essential fatty acid (EFA) ratio. Think “inflammatory conditions.” By eliminating those issues grass-fed and Omega-3 meats actually improve heart health.
3. Some people say meat causes obesity. -- Yet science says humans gain weight when they overeat and/or consume sweets and carbohydrates. The Keto Diet (high in animal fat/protein) is famous for permanent weight loss.
4. Veggie health food bloggers are very persistent. -- Simple myths repeated over and over can easily overwhelm complicated truths that people find difficult to understand. People, especially youngsters, are very vulnerable to persistent and simplistic brain washing and it can influence them for life.
5. Then there are those who say livestock on pastures are bad for the environment. -- In truth, vegetable farming, where farmland is plowed and often fallow, and many inputs including mechanization are required is hard on the environment. In addition farming is a recent human invention. On the other hand, ruminants have been sustainably grazing grasses for 40 million years because when grasses grow back (which doesn’t require farming) the grasses are carbon sinks.
6. Public campaigns such as Meat-Free Mondays are effective in recruiting vegetarians. -- Yes, propaganda and working the crowds is a forceful practice that can often overwhelm science and even common sense.
7. Meat is more expensive. -- Nutrient rich meat is more expensive then (for example) nutrient poor, high glycemic rice. That’s why eating more Grass-Fed and Omega-3 meats while reducing the consumption of less nutritious plant-based food will reduce the incidences of chronic disease. Fewer diseases will reduce the cost of healthcare which is higher than the cost of food.4
Those seven negative points regarding meat are gaining traction with the masses. Those of us in the meat business experience it and are negatively impacted emotionally and financially. The recent overwhelmingly successful introduction of fake meat products (made from highly processed plants) is impacting the entire meat industry. It’s a fad that’s in its infancy and it will take years for the public to figure out that fake meat is about as smart as pet rocks. There is no question that whole foods are generally more nutritious than most processed foods. Yet incredibly the vegetarian movement gains ground by telling people to avoid meat (a whole food) while promoting industrially processed veggie parts and a long list of supplements in a fake meat product. Go figure.
The meatless mantras are causing a growing percentage of people to claim they’re vegetarian. The data on how that movement is impacting meat consumption per capita hasn’t come out yet. For certain its having some impact. Although it does seem that some people are not being swayed by the propaganda. Instead they are picking up on the science and actually increasing their meat consumption to improve their health. But if they want to continue to have meat to eat, they need to make sure their voices are heard and heard often.
To protect our access to meat, let’s play heed to “First they came . . .” Wikipedia describes it as “the poetic form of a prose post-war confession first made in German in 1946 by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). It is about the cowardice of German intellectuals and certain clergy (including, by his own admission, Niemöller himself) following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent incremental purging of their chosen targets, group after group.” It’s a powerful lesson illustrating how entire societies can be forcefully controlled one group at a time and brought down by a minority. Cuba and Venezuela come to mind.5
Andrew Yang, an interesting fellow, is a Democrat running for president. His signature program is “The Freedom Dividend,” which is simply universal unearned basic income. His idea is for the government (as if it’s not “we the people”) to give a lifetime $1,000 per month payment, or $12,000 per year, to every U.S. citizen over the age of 18. I did the math. It will cost $252 billion per month or $3 trillion per year. In fiscal 2019 the Federal government spent $4.53 trillion while running up a $1.15 trillion deficit. Obviously funding universal income will be a huge expense that will require massive printing of paper money and/or much higher taxes.6 7
As an aside, keep in mind that according to Forbes Magazine, in 2018 the cumulative wealth of all 607 U.S. billionaires was $3.1 trillion. In 2019 the government took in $3.38 trillion in taxes. The proposed Freedom Dividend will cost $3 trillion annually.8
Yang is also concerned about the environment and global warming. He wants to increase the use of nuclear power by using new, much safer, and less expensive technology. I think that might be a good idea especially since nuclear power produces zero carbon emissions. I’ve lived close to conventional nuclear power plants for many years and they have safely produced less expensive energy to my benefit. So, with even better technology, nuclear power might be a good option. Recently Clean Energy Systems developed a fossil fueled zero-emission power plant which might even be better.9 10
Yang has additional environmental plans and one of them is the point of this column. He wants to greatly reduce the nation’s livestock population by taxing meat. And that means making the tax high enough so that it discourages meat consumption in spite of everyone getting $1,000 a month to spend any way they want. My guess is his meat tax will have to be a very high tax on cattle that are worth from $1,000 to $1,800 per head. It may have to be $5,000 per cow or calf more than one year of age. But that would only increase the cost of beef by maybe $450 billion a year which is chump change compared to handing all adults $3 trillion at the same time. Gheez, when it comes to governments controlling our lives nothing is simple is it?11 12
Anyway, Yang is low in the polls and few people are following him. Maybe that’s why when he was in Iowa last month at the Polk County Steak Fry (a beef promotional event), he ignored his own call for taxing meat and was a very excited “chef” who told everyone how much he enjoyed eating beef. He said “I also fried a few steaks, which were delicious if I do say so myself.”13
Such hypocrisy. Tax it out of existence one day and say he wants it the next.
Everyone has a voice and currently everyone can eat what they choose. To keep those rights we are all responsible for trying our best to make sure our government works for the good of the entire country. Unfortunately some of the ideas being put forth, which are often promoted by the media because they create interest, aren’t the best. So we have to work harder in order to fully understand the issues.
Right now vegetarians are a minority. Most meat eaters and livestock raisers couldn’t care less if vegetarians want to eat only plant-based foods. But meat eaters want the same privilege to eat what they want. And ranchers want to keep raising livestock and eating animal fats and protein for their better health. More important, we all want the youth of our country to have the same options in their future that we’ve had. But like us they will have to be hard workers. It won’t be handed to them.
To your health.
Ted Slanker has been reporting on the fundamentals of nutritional research in publications, television and radio appearances, and at conferences since 1999. He condenses complex studies into the basics required for health and well-being. His eBook, The Real Diet of Man, is available online.
Don’t miss these links for additional reading:
1. Profile of Farms with Livestock in the United States: A Statistical Summary by Robert L. Kellogg from Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA
3. Estimates of the Voting Age Population for 2017 from the Commerce Department on 02/20/2018
4. Seven Reasons Why You Should Stop Eating Meat Immediately from The Independent
5. First They Came . . . From Wikipedia
6. Politician Vows to Tax Producers to Make Beef More Expensive by Amada Radke
7. What is Universal Basic Income? The Freedom Dividend, Defined by Andrew Yang
13. Andrew Yang Excitedly Frying Steaks at the Polk County Steak Fry from Yang 2020
"So God Made a Farmer" by Ted Slanker