Earlier today (20 February), 12 year-old climate change campaigner, Genesis Butler, attended a general audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, following an earlier meeting inside the Vatican yesterday with senior Catholic priest Father Paweł Ptasznik.
It was at this meeting that Butler spoke with Father Ptasznik about the Million Dollar Vegan campaign to fight climate change with diet change. She thanked the Vatican priest for seeing her and told him about her love for animals and how we need to change our behaviour to protect them and the planet that we live on. Father Ptasnik responded: “We are all responsible for our Earth, I agree with your words.”
Butler spoke with such integrity and passion that Father Ptasnik agreed to be her messenger, and to take her letter, signed by dozens of celebrities, scientists and influencers, as well as the petition signed by tens of thousands of people, and hand it to Pope Francis.
Father Ptasnik asked for Butler’s home address and told her to await a response from the Pope.
During today’s general audience, Pope Francis acknowledged Butler and smiled in response to her question: ‘Will you go vegan for Lent?’ With only two weeks to go before Lent, she hopes to hear from the Pope soon. In the meantime, Butler continues to seek the support from the public and other child activists around the world, who have recently hit global headlines with their mission to tackle climate change.
Prior to Butler’s trip to the Vatican this week she had written to Pope Francis by email to ask him to try vegan for Lent, and the Million Dollar Vegan campaign has also secured international media coverage – including an open letter written by Butler and the Million Dollar Vegan team which was published in 15 major newspapers around the world.
Butler said: “It was such an honour to be acknowledged by Pope Francis during his audience at the Vatican today, and also to meet with Father Ptasnik yesterday to discuss my hopes to tackle climate change and help animals. I look forward to receiving a response to my letter and hope Pope Francis will agree to try vegan for Lent.”
The Million Dollar Vegan campaign seeks to highlight the devastating impact of animal agriculture. Farming animals 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. These are all issues that Pope Francis has spoken about in his 2015 Encyclical Letter, Laudato si’. What he may not know is that there is one human activity that drives this destruction: animal agriculture.
CEO of Million Dollar Vegan, Matthew Glover – who also co-founded the hugely successful Veganuary campaign – commented: “The future of our planet is at risk, and our world leaders have a responsibility to take urgent action. To receive a response from the Vatican would demonstrate that Pope Francis is committed to helping fight climate change, halting deforestation and species loss, and preventing the suffering of billions of farmed animals. He can do all this by choosing to eat a vegan diet for Lent – and hopefully beyond – and encouraging the world to do the same.”
Million Dollar Vegan is encouraging people of all backgrounds to try vegan for Lent and has produced a Vegan Starter Kit – written in multiple languages and with country-specific content – which is available to download for free at www.MillionDollarVegan.com. 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.
The Million Dollar Vegan campaign is backed by leading celebrities, scientists, environmentalists and doctors, including Paul McCartney, Moby, Chris Packham, Mena Suvari, Evanna Lynch, Woody Harrelson, Joaquin Phoenix, Benjamin Zephaniah (poet and writer), Joseph Poore of Oxford University and environmentalist George Monbiot.
Films of Genesis meeting many of these influencers are available here.
If Pope Francis agrees to go vegan for Lent, the Blue Horizon International Foundation will donate $1 million to the charity, or charities, of his choice.