Pope Francis, who chose his papal name in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi (patron saint of animals and the natural environment) has just been offered $1 million to be donated to the charity of his choice if he agrees to eat a vegan diet for the duration of Lent.
Lent is a Christian solemn observance that takes place between Ash Wednesday and Easter, about a 6-week period.
Lent is a time of fasting and giving up luxuries (or vices) to replicate Jesus' sacrifices during his 40-day journey into the desert.
A new campaign promoting vegan eating, Million Dollar Vegan, has offered to make a $1 million donation for Pope Francis' promise to eat vegan during Lent. The campaign is backed by various vegan celebrities, including Paul McCartney.
Another major advocate for Million Dollar Vegan is 12-year-old Genesis Butler, whose website describes her as an:
"animal rights activist and ethical vegan who went vegan on her own at the age of 6 after discovering the milk she was drinking came from mother cows."
Through Million Dollar Vegan, Genesis released an open letter to Pope Francis, urging him to consider join her in
"abstaining from all animal products throughout Lent, and to endorse the Million Dollar Vegan campaign."
Genesis appealed to the pope's efforts to urge Catholics improve our planet and climate, as well as the lives of it's citizens:
"As we approach the period of Lent – a season of reflection and hope – I write to you today with the utmost respect and appreciation for your speaking out on climate change, habitat loss, and pollution, and for reminding the world that Earth is a home we all share."
"In your encyclical letter, Laudato si', you stated that every effort to protect and improve our world will involve changes in lifestyle, production, and consumption. I agree with all my heart and seek your support in tackling one of the largest underlying causes of the problems we face: animal agriculture."
"The current eating habits of predominantly richer nations are causing global destruction and devastation. Animal farming uses 83 percent of agricultural land but yields just 18 percent of our calories. With 815 million people suffering from malnutrition, imagine how many hungry people we could feed across the world if we moved away from such wasteful foods."
"Not only does animal farming impact on the world's poorest, it contributes 14.5 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a leading cause of deforestation and the current mass extinction of wildlife. Agricultural chemicals and animal waste are polluting our rivers, while overfishing and runoff are destroying our oceans."
"Your Holiness, we must act. Moving towards a plant-based diet will have substantial environmental benefits. It will protect our land, trees, oceans, and air, and help feed the world's most vulnerable."
" It can also benefit human health, as a plant-based diet has been proven to reduce the risk of many common chronic diseases, such as heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. As a result, a growing number of doctors and dieticians [sic] are advocating vegan diets in documentaries such as What the Health."
"All of these things matter to me, and my heart truly aches for the billions of animals trapped inside factory farms who will never see daylight or be allowed to rear their young. That is why I launched the Genesis for Animals non-profit organization."
"In 2017, I was the youngest person in history to give a TEDx talk about my vision for healing the planet and how going vegan can reverse the damage we have caused. My journey to help save the planet started with my love for animals, and has continued as I've learned how our current system of food production is putting so many of our lives in danger. We need to take action, and we need the support of influential leaders like yourself."
"Today, Pope Francis, I am asking you to join me in abstaining from all animal products throughout Lent, and to endorse the Million Dollar Vegan campaign."
" Should you join me, the Blue Horizon International Foundation will donate $1 million to a charity or charities of your choice as a gesture of their utmost gratitude for your commitment."
I would be delighted to come and meet you to discuss these issues.
There was quite a bit of support for Butler's efforts and the campaign in general on Twitter.
Some pointed out that omitting animal products during lent is the typical practice for Eastern Orthodox Christians, among others.
Some were...less supportive.
There are many different ideas of how we can go about helping animals and slowing climate change, but most people are in agreement that it's important.
If nothing else, this campaign raises awareness of the environmental effects of commercial meat production.