Introduce Beefy Meat Tax to Prevent Another Pandemic

By William J. Furney

The pandemic we’re still embroiled in, more than a year on, is this century’s “Chernobyl moment”, says a report into the global health catastrophe published this week, but the disease that has so far killed more than 3 million people was preventable and the response of the World Health Organisation and world governments represented a combined “toxic cocktail”. 

“The situation we find ourselves in today could have been prevented,” report co-chair and former Liberia president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told a news briefing. “It is due to a myriad of failures, gaps and delays in preparedness and response.”

The WHO dithered and delayed at the start of last year, when reports were emerging from China of a deadly new disease that we now call covid-19, failing to declare soaring cases of infections and deaths worldwide what it was — a pandemic — until it was too late, and urging countries to keep their borders open and allow the free-flow of good and people to travel. 

WHO chief Tedros has been widely and fiercely criticised for his reaction to the health emergency, with many saying the Ethiopian did not want to upset ostensible ally China, which had supported the controversial former health minister in his rise to the top spot at the world health body four years ago this month. 

Tedros’ position is clearly compromised and he needs to go. 

“The virus has upended societies, put the world’s population in grave danger and exposed deep inequalities,” says the independent report by a review panel established by the WHO. “In less than a year and a half, covid-19 has infected at least 150 million people and killed more than three million. It is the worst combined health and socioeconomic crisis in living memory, and a catastrophe at every level.”

But the report, Covid-19: Make It the Last Pandemic, fails to even address, let alone tackle, the underlying cause of the newly discovered pathogen and other zoonotic diseases: humans’ relationship with animals — chiefly eating them, thereby allowing deadly viruses to leap from animal reservoirs to humans, whether it’s fowl (avian influenza), pigs (swine flu), cattle (mad cow disease; and in humans who consume the infected flesh, the always-fatal Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease) and, now, bats (as it’s believed) and novel coronavirus, which develops into covid-19 in people. 

So, laughably and tragically, the WHO panel declares: “Our message for change is clear: no more pandemics. If we fail to take this goal seriously, we will condemn the world to successive catastrophes.”

Few are willing to sacrifice their lust for meat to make the world a better place — unwilling to give the environment or human health a break — but the numbers of those shunning the toxic foods of the past and adopting a plant-based diet are growing, as evidenced in the explosion of vegan products in shops and restaurants in recent years. 

It’s a real-world awakening that cannot come to the masses soon enough. Because everyone on the planet who chooses to ignore the reality that meat is deadly on so many levels and continues to eat a meat-rich diet is a menace to us all. It’s like cigarettes times a billion. 

This is why — because, like with cigarettes, people won’t stop their deadly addition until it becomes unaffordable — the countries of the world must impose a crippling tax on meat products of every kind. If you’re insistent on eating the flesh of animals, endangering everyone and the planet, you must pay a heavy financial price for it. 

It’s not a new notion, as medics have been calling for such a levy, to save lives and billions in healthcare costs, due to the many diseases and conditions linked to meat consumption, as have environmentalists, because of the devastation the meat and dairy industries cause to the world.

“The Panel has made bold, considered, and pragmatic recommendations,” the covid report declares of its limp advice to share vaccines and make airy announcements at the annual UN General Assembly. “The stakes are too high for these to be ignored or postponed,” it says, while foolishly ignoring the root case of the pandemic, and even China’s recent refusal to allow a team of visiting UN inspectors full access to sites and data. 

Just like the UN and its impotent Security Council’s many declarations about Israeli seizures of Palestinian land that are called resolutions but resolve nothing and are roundly ignored. The council meets today “to debate” the current deadly flare-up in violence between Israelis and Palestinians that Palestinian sources say have killed at least 145 people, including 41 children. As always at the UN, and its unhealthy WHO arm, it will be all talk and no action at all. 

And so, without the world population drastically altering its diet in favour of plant-based foods, or a hefty tax on meat to prod people into health-focused action, deadly virus history is bound to keep on replicating.

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