30 Jan 2019

Meat tax debate fuelled by 'stupid figure of speech'

7:07 am on 30 January 2019

The government has ruled out putting a tax on red meat despite earlier fears that it might do so later.

50344317 - grilled beef steak with rosemary, salt and pepper on cutting board

Photo: 123RF

It blamed what it called a "stupid figure of speech" for confusion about the matter.

The issue began after an article in the British Medical Journal, The Lancet, called for red meat to be taxed.

The reasons for that were red meat's alleged negative impact on human health and on the planetary environment.

The paper also argued the fight against obesity was too slow.

A red meat tax would follow similar pressure for a sugar tax, and aim to discourage consumption. Tobacco taxes are aimed to achieve the same goal.

After the article about meat tax appeared in The Lancet, media in New Zealand quoted the Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter as not ruling out a red meat tax in New Zealand, saying simply that it was not under consideration "at this stage".

That led the National Party to accuse the Labour government of possibly bringing one in later, which could also jeopardise New Zealand's rural economy, the party said.

The minister's office later said the phrase "at this stage" was a "stupid figure of speech" issued while the office was still in holiday mood.

A subsequent statement said explicitly that there was no plan to introduce a red meat tax, and the government was not investigating one either.