Meat and dairy farming is more damaging to the environment than producing cereals, fruits or vegetables. Germany’s Federal Environment Agency (UBA) has called for higher taxes on animal products, but the idea is controversial. EurActiv Germany reports.

Agriculture is a big contributor to climate change. In a recent study, the UBA highlighted the fact that farming is the largest emitter of nitrous oxide and methane, a greenhouse gas around 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

This conclusion led the UBA to a controversial conclusion, namely that VAT reductions on animal products such as meat and cheese amount to environmentally harmful subsidies. It put the current value of this tax break at €5.2 billion.

The agency criticised the fact that animal products benefit from a VAT rate of just 7%, the same rate as cereals, fruits or vegetables, despite the fact that they are far more damaging to the environment.

For example, one kilo of beef can generate up to 28kg of CO2 equivalent. For the same quantity of fruits and vegetables, emissions are typically less than 1kg.

Not only are meat and cheese resource-intensive to produce, but animals like cows also emit large amounts of methane when digesting food. According to environmental groups, the production of animal feed is also a big contributor to the greenhouse effect, as virgin forests are often cleared to make space for soya production.

“In future, animal food products should be taxed at the regular 19% rate. In return, the state could use the billions this would generate to further lower the 7% reduced rate. This could help cut the cost of fruits and vegetables or public transport. Both would be good for the climate and benefit citizens,” said UBA President Maria Krautzberger.

For the UBA, environment and climate-damaging subsidies in other sectors are still far too high, endangering Germany’s Paris climate commitments. In 2012, Berlin handed out €57bn in climate-harmful subsidies.

According to the UBA, most of these subsidies are given to the transport sector (€28.6bn), followed by the energy sector (€20.3bn). Transport is responsible for 18% of all German emissions and energy for more than one-third, making them among the most environmentally unfriendly sectors in the German economy.


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