A major global campaign announced today – and backed by a host of celebrities, environmentalists and scientists – is calling on Pope Francis to try vegan for Lent to “help fight climate change with diet change.” In return, Million Dollar Vegan – the campaign behind the project – is offering $1 million to a charity of the pope’s choice should he pledge to eat a plant-based diet for Lent.
The campaign seeks to highlight the devastating impact of animal agriculture, which according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has a greater impact on global warming than the fuel emissions from the entire global transport sector combined, is a leading driver of deforestation and biodiversity loss, and causes suffering to billions of farmed animals.
In a letter written to the pope by 12-year-old animal rights and environmental campaigner Genesis Butler with the help of the Million Dollar Vegan team – and printed today in national newspapers in 15 countries across five continents – Butler urges Francis to try vegan for Lent. The letter outlines the connection between climate change and pollution and highlights the inefficiency of animal farming and how it contributes to world hunger, the extinction of wildlife and the suffering of farmed animals. These are all issues that Pope Francis has spoken out on in his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si.’
“Farming and slaughtering animals causes a lot of suffering and is also a leading cause of climate change, deforestation, and species loss,” Butler wrote in the letter. “When we feed animals crops that humans can eat, it is wasteful. And with a growing world population, we cannot afford to be wasteful.”
Butler has asked to meet Pope Francis so that she can discuss the issues raised in her letter. The campaign has already led her to meet well-known vegans including Evanna Lynch (“Harry Potter” and “Dancing with the Stars”) and poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah. She has also met with musical Moby, actress Mena Suvari, and Joseph Poore of Oxford University, and has the backing of environmentalists George Monbiot and Chris Packham. Paul McCartney, a long-time vegetarian and co-founder of the Meat Free Monday campaign, also supports Million Dollar Vegan and has signed the letter to the pope.
As part of the campaign, a petition has also been created to ask the pope to try vegan for Lent. If he agrees, the Blue Horizon International Foundation will donate $1 million to the charity or charities of the pope’s choice.
“We are launching this deliberately bold, audacious campaign to jolt our world leaders from their complacency,” said Matthew Glover, the CEO of Million Dollar Vegan and co-founder of the hugely successful Veganuary campaign. “For too long they have failed to act on evidence of the damage caused to people and the planet by animal agriculture. Worse, many have defended and subsidized that very industry. But the evidence now is stark and compelling, and we cannot afford for them to remain silent any longer. We are thankful that Pope Francis has spoken out on these issues and that is why we are humbly asking him to try vegan for Lent and set an example of how each of us can align our principles of caring and compassion with our actions.”
Million Dollar Vegan is encouraging people of all backgrounds to try vegan for Lent and has produced a free Vegan Starter Kit – written in multiple languages and with country-specific content – that is available to download. It contains helpful information about following a vegan diet, including nutrition advice, recipe sites, vegan products, inspiring books and films, and the best places to eat out.
A major report published by the U.N. in 2018 warned there are just 12 years to limit a climate change catastrophe, with drastic measures needed imminently to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Research from Oxford University has shown that a plant-based diet is the single biggest way to minimize our environmental impact.
Each person who goes vegan for Lent will save emissions equivalent to a flight from London to Berlin, and if every Catholic on the planet takes part, it will be equivalent to the whole of the Philippines not emitting CO2 for a year, according to Dr. Joseph Poore of Oxford University.