Tax, ban, regulate: the radical ‘planetary health diet’ explained

One of the secrets of the success of the nanny state campaign over the years has been the refusal of its advocates to describe their final destination. Whether it is a tax on soft drinks, minimum pricing for alcohol or plain packaging for tobacco, the erosion of liberty has always been incremental. Each policy is lobbied for on it own terms and by the time the ink is dry on the new legislation, the activists have moved on to the ‘next logical step’.

Ask them what the logical conclusion is and they become unusually quiet. The obvious answer seems to be total prohibition of whichever product displeases them, but since stating this openly would alarm sensible moderates they stick to their policy of death by a thousand cuts.

Those who yearn for a little more candour should welcome today’s report from the EAT-Lancet Commission which makes no secret of its intention to force a near-vegan diet on the world’s population through the use of taxes, bans and regulation. Its new dietary guidelines, supposedly designed to optimise health and sustainability, are radical to say the least. Under their plan, you would be limited to just seven grams of pork a day – about a tenth of a sausage. The beef allocation is the same. Your chicken ration is somewhat more generous at 29 grams, but it still only amounts to one and a half nuggets. You can have fish, but only a quarter of a fillet a day, and you would be limited to 50 grams of potatoes, the equivalent of a quarter of a baked spud. Egg consumption is capped at one and half per week, so half a dozen should last you a month.

To comply with these extraordinary demands, the UK would all have to cut meat consumption by 80 per cent and massively increase its consumption of beans, lentils, soy and nuts. This is not going to happen voluntarily and the committee knows it. It calls on politicians to do more ‘choice editing’ (ie. banning things).

The authors want more taxes on food, more advertising restrictions and the ‘banning and pariah status of key products’ (which ‘key products’? Fizzy drinks? Chips?). They want local authorities to ban new takeaway food outlets ‘in low-income areas’ (but apparently not in high income areas) even though they admit that the evidence that ‘zoning regulations could increase healthy food consumption or reduce BMI [body mass index] is scarce’ (indeed it is).

They state their preferred option bluntly: ‘restrict choice’ or, better still, ‘eliminate choice’. In wealthy countries such as Britain, ‘a priority is to offer less than what is currently offered by reducing portions, choice, and packaging’. They even propose ‘rationing on a population scale’.

None of this will happen overnight. ‘Gaining consensus on these targets is a first step in urging actors to agree on a common agenda,’ they write. ‘Targets will then be refined and engaged with at all policy levels.’ Perhaps there is an element of trying to shift the Overton Window with some of the more extreme demands, but a number of the report’s policy recommendations have already been adopted by the British government. We have a sugar tax. A pudding tax was recently mooted, and there has been talk of a meat tax in recent months. Sadiq Khan wants London to join the many towns in Britain that have banned new takeaway outlets. Public Health England is due to publish its long list of calorie caps in the spring and the government’s childhood obesity strategy gave Jamie Oliver everything he asked for.

But even by the standards of Britain’s super-nanny state, the EAT-Lancet report represents a draconian step change. To those who ask ‘where will it end?’, I say just read the document. A militant coalition of vegetarians, environmental activists and health campaigners have put their cards on the table and this time you won’t be able to say you weren’t warned.

  • Andrew Donovan

    This is what the world saving lefties do. They say something preposterous like “We need to tax the rich 70%” knowing it’s very unlikely that’ll happen. But they shift the overton window and claim victory at 60%, which is still heinous but seems better than 70%.

    They’ll do the same with meat. Propose taxes and bans. People argue that we cannot simply ban meat so they’ll set their sights on taxes and suffice with that…for now.

    And gutless conservatives just sit back and say, “Well at least it’s not a ban!” or “At least it’s not 70% tax!”


    • Johan Wallström

      You conservatives should start doing some actual conservation of the planet =)
      it’s not reasonable that we just watch the climate, the eco systems, the seas, be destroyed without action.

      • Post-Vegan

        If you follow the advice in this report, there will be nothing to conserve because the report isn’t advocating for soil restoration and regeneration. Ruminants, when used properly, are one of the most effective tools to restore soils and regenerate land. This report instead is pushing more “efficient” syn N and P use. When all the top soil is gone, it really won’t matter what dietary pattern you follow, because we’re all going to be screwed.

      • marc biff

        Deluded buffoonery on a massive scale.

      • George

        I wouldn’t call myself a conservative, except when it comes to conserving the natural world, but the EAT-Lancet report details several ways to make things worse – for example, they recommend palm oil by name, because Unilever is a backer. They recommend rice, which – unlike animals – is the cause of 21st century methane increases. They are also backed by Saudi oil royalty, at which point it should be clear that this is, amongst other things, an effort to divert attention from the impact of fossil fuels. Their idea of diet and human health is antediluvian and what evidence they have for it is mainly the result of their own bias affecting the populations they study the most.

    • It isn’t a left vs right issue.

      The funding behind this proposal involves some of the most profitable big biz on the planet. This is pure corporatism and, if instituted, it will be corporatocracy. In recent history, corporatism was used by both right-wing and left-wing governments. The fascists used it and, in hoping to avoid communism, FDR used it.

      Corporatism is a way to reform capitalism by aligning the interests of big biz and big gov. The communist or socialist solution, on the other hand, is simply to eliminate private businesses entirely (or to make them collective and communal enterprises as with anarchosyndicalism; e.g., Mondragon Corporation).

  • By the way, the proposed EAT-Lancet diet isn’t so much a vegetarian diet. The recommendations only include 3% for vegetables and 5% for fruits, about equivalent to what is also recommended for animal-based foods (beef, chicken, fish, eggs, dairy, and animal fat). It also allows %5 for sweeteners. What the diet primarily consists of is lots of carbs. It is essentially an idealized variety of the Standard American Diet (SAD) as defined by the Food Pyramid with carbs as the base.

    • George

      Because EAT-Lancet replace refined carbs with whole grains, they have greatly increased the cooking time for foods like rice, requiring an increased use of fuel in most places. This will add to deforestation in poor countries and increased fossil fuel use everywhere else, except for the few places able to use non-carbon energy sources to generate electricity.
      It takes 3 minutes to fry an egg, 10 minutes to cook mince or a steak, and you don’t need to heat water along with them.