By Matthew Glover, CEO Million Dollar Vegan
Welcome to Million Dollar Vegan’s first campaign, which launches today in 15 countries. Backed by a host of scientists, environmentalists, doctors, influencers and celebrities, we are asking Pope Francis to try vegan for Lent to help alleviate climate change, reduce pollution, protect forests and wild animals, and end the suffering of farmed animals.
Pope Francis has spoken at length about humanity’s irresponsible use of the Earth’s resources and the urgent challenges we face to protect our common home. He has talked about pollution, climate change, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and our wasteful use of energy and water, and he has stated his ‘particular appreciation’ for those who ‘tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the world’s poorest.’1
While his 2015 Encyclical Letter reveals just how deeply Pope Francis cares for our shared home and all its inhabitants, he may not yet know that there is one human activity that links all these ecological challenges: animal farming.
Not only does animal farming drive the degradation of our planet and cause suffering to billions of sentient beings, it also raises the likelihood of antibiotic resistance, which could have a devastating outcome for us all. And because producing meat is so inefficient – using many more calories in feed than are returned through the meat – it wastes a lot of food, which makes feeding a growing global population all the more difficult.
Meat is a humanitarian issue; it’s a sustainability issue and it’s a compassion issue. Most of all, it’s a desperately urgent issue.
Climate scientists warn that we have just 12 years to get global emissions under control if we want to avoid a rise of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. Anything beyond this will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. It will send even more species to extinction and drive countless people into refugee status.
To prevent all this, we need bold and immediate global action from our world leaders, yet to date, few have spoken out, and we cannot risk doing nothing. That is why Million Dollar Vegan – working alongside youth campaigner Genesis Butler – is seeking to engage with leaders, to inspire them to act, to encourage them to set an example, and to talk publicly about these most pressing issues and how we can all play our part in combating them.
We have deep respect for Pope Francis’s message that we must change our behaviours for the good of our planet – and we hope that he will be receptive to our own compassionate message, too. Our sincere wish is that he will go vegan for Lent and encourage others to do the same, and we would be delighted if he accepted the $1 million for the charity of his choice. By taking part, he would have a huge and positive impact across the world.
And since animal agriculture is a global problem, it will need global action to address it. That is why Million Dollar Vegan is active in 15 countries from Australia to Canada and Argentina to Italy. We are proud and grateful for the support of Paul McCartney, Moby, Mena Suvari, Joaquin Phoenix, Benjamin Zephaniah, Woody Harrelson and Evanna Lynch. We are honoured that environmentalists Chris Packham and George Monbiot have added their names to the campaign, along with Dr Neal Barnard MD, Dr Joseph Poore from Oxford University and Australian philanthropist and former VP of Citibank Philip Wollen. All of them – and many more people – have signed a letter to Pope Francis, co-authored by Genesis Butler and Million Dollar Vegan, calling on him to try vegan for Lent. And we are delighted that Catholic Concern for Animals and SARX are among the groups who support the campaign.
Yet, while we desperately need commitments from global leaders, we do not have to wait for them to act. Each of us can play our part, and we can start immediately. Whatever you care about – whether it’s protecting wild places, preventing species loss, sparing the lives of farmed animals who live in filth and fear, helping the world’s poorest, or taking better care of your own health – we can all make dietary choices that align with our principles.
Please download the Vegan Starter Kit today and pledge to try vegan for Lent. If you prefer not to undertake this within the context of a Christian tradition, you can start anytime and commit for as long as you like. But whatever your motivation, and whatever your religion, please pledge to try vegan today.
Matthew created the online Veganuary campaign, which has seen more than 250,000 people try vegan for January. He now aims to magnify his impact and create global change.