Pope Francis has been offered a sum of $1 million to a charity of his choice if he goes vegan, following a campaign by an environmental rights group.
The Million Dollar Vegan campaign, backed by celebrities such as Paul McCartney and TV presenter Chris Packham, aims to tackle climate change and global warming by taking a closer look at the way that people eat. Research indicates that consuming less meat in developed nations was vital for beating the effects of climate change, while eating fewer animal products will help to tackle pollution and deforestation.
To that end, Million Dollar Vegan asked Pope Francis to go completely vegan, based on his worldwide following (consisting of an estimated 1.2 billion Catholics), as well as his outspoken views on climate change. Back in 2015, Pope Francis spoke out about the dangers of climate change.
"Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic [and] political," he said in that year's encyclical, while also speaking to the UN, saying: "The ecological crisis, and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity, can threaten the very existence of the human species."
Million Dollar Vegan is led by a 12-year-old girl named Genesis Butler. Butler has been vegan since she was only six years old, and has already staged several protests against animal cruelty. She says that her activism days began early, starting with a chicken nugget at age four.
"When I was about to turn four I asked my mom about where we got our chicken nuggets from, because I would always eat them. I was devastated. I told her that I never wanted to eat meat again. But I still love chicken nuggets – the vegan version – and I love vegan mac’n’cheese."
It was Butler who wrote a personal letter to the Pope, asking him to adopt a plant-based diet.
"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."
Matthew Glover, who is the CEO at Million Dollar Vegan and also founded the Veganuary movement, admitted that the Pope's influence as well as his views on climate change were a massive factor in campaigning him to become vegan for the period of Lent, which takes place from March 6 to April 18 of this year.
"We are launching this deliberately bold, audacious campaign to jolt our world leaders from their complacency. We are thankful that Pope Francis has spoken out 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."
If Pope Francis decides to adopt a vegan diet over the 40-day period of Lent, he'll get to send a sum of $1 million to whichever charity he likes. The sum was generated by Blue Horizon International Foundation, which is the charitable arm of the Blue Horizon Corporation.
The Blue Horizon Corporation aims to invest in companies offering plant-based food alternatives, helping to "accelerate the removal of animals from the global food chain".