A leading think-tank has called on the UK government to tax meat to help tackle global warming. The think-tank has also urged ministers to reduce the amount of meat served in schools and hospitals.
According to researchers from Chatham House, proceeds from a meat tax, could be used to subsidise healthier alternatives that were less damaging to the environment, such as fruit, vegetables and tofu.
According to a study, a ''carbon tax'' of £1.76 per kilo on the price of beef could cut consumption by 14 per cent, they point out.
The think-tank said the livestock sector had been ''almost completely overlooked'' in efforts to tackle climate change, despite the fact it accounted for over 15 per cent of global greenhouse emissions - the same proportion as direct emissions from cars, planes, trains and ships combined.
Public procurement represented a major opportunity to influence diets by cutting the meat on offer in schools, hospitals, armed forces and prisons, according to the researchers.
Beef and lamb production were the worst for the environment, with emissions generated both in the production of the large quantities of animal feed and also from the digestive systems of cattle and sheep directly.
With a rate of consumption of about 250g per day, the US had one of the highest levels of meat consumption in the world. Europe and the major livestock-producing nations of South America were not far behind, while on the other end of the scale Indians averaged less than 10g of meat per day.
The industrialised countries had seen the consumption of meat at fairly steady levels, but due to a general correlation between wealth and diet, as incomes rose in the emerging economies, meat consumption was booming. If the trend were to be allowed to continue, shifting diets, coupled with a growing population, would see global consumption increase by more than 75 per cent by 2050.
As of 21 October, commitments to cutting back on emissions from the livestock sector appeared in only 21 of the 120 national plans submitted ahead of the Paris climate conference. Reducing meat consumption appeared in not a single one of these.