Pope Francis offered a million dollar donation to become vegan during Lent • Good Non profit

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Environmental advocates have challenged Pope Francis to become vegans for Lent and receive a million dollars for the charity of his choice.

The goal of the Million Dollar Vegan campaign, led by 12-year-old Genesis Butler, is to encourage people to eat less meat and dairy products in order to combat climate change. Global warming can not be beaten without huge cuts in meat consumption in rich countries, shows the research, while reducing the consumption of animal products too attack on pollution and destruction of forests and wildlife.

The pope, the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics around the world, has spoken candidly about environmental issues. "Climate change is a global problem with serious implications: environmental, social, economic [and] policy," he said in his 2015 encyclical. He also has says to the UN the same year: "The ecological crisis and the large-scale destruction of biodiversity can threaten the very existence of the human species."

Butler, of Long Beach, Calif., Has been vegan since the age of six and has organized numerous animal cruelty protests. She said that there were many reasons to have an herbal diet.

Genesis Butler

Aged 12, he organized demonstrations against animal cruelty. Photography: document

"There is an animal side, a health and an environmental side," she told the Guardian. "If I talk to people about the damage done by the animal husbandry industry to the planet, then some of them want to become vegans. I also talk to them about health and how it can help prevent cancer, heart, disease and diabetes by becoming vegan, or how animals should die or suffer. "

The campaign is supported by celebrities such as Paul McCartney, actor Mena Suvari, musician Moby and naturalist and television presenter Chris Packham. The young environmental protesters are more and more present, with Greta ThunbergSchool hits for climate inspiring tens of thousands of other students to do the same.

In his message to Pope Francis, Butler states: "In your encyclical letter, Laudato si ', you said that every effort to protect and improve our world would involve changes in lifestyle, production and consumption. I am wholeheartedly with you and I ask your support to fight against one of the most important underlying causes of the problems we face: animal agriculture. "

Matthew Glover, CEO of Million Dollar Vegan and co-founder of the company Veganuary campaign, said the pope had been chosen for his environmental leadership and influence, especially in South America, where large forests continue to be cut down.

"We are launching this deliberately bold and daring campaign to shake our world leaders from their complacency," said Glover. "We are grateful that Pope Francis expressed himself and that is why we humbly ask him to try Vegan for Lent and show how each of us can align his principles of caring and compassion for his actions. "

The million dollars was donated by the Horizon Bleu International Foundation, the charitable arm of Blue Horizon Corporation, which invests in companies producing plant-based foods and aims to "accelerate the removal of animals from the global food chain".

Lent is a period of about 40 days ending just before Easter and during which many Christians practice abstinence. It reflects the biblical story of the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert. In 2019, it expands from March 6 to April 18. The Vatican did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Daniel Hale, of the Catholic aid agency Cafod, said: "Pope Francis has been the undisputed global leader in climate change over this decade. Like all Christians, the Holy Father will decide to give, to act and to pray this Lent.

"It is a time of reflection for all Catholics and a chance for us to respond to the Pope's call to live in a simpler and more sustainable way," he said. "For some, this will mean reducing meat consumption, while others will turn to renewable energy or campaign for action to reduce emissions."

Packham said, "We have sown the mess of this precious little planet in all sorts of ways. [Million Dollar Vegan] is important, brilliant and daring. If the head of the Catholic Church can be vegan during [Lent], think of the message that will be sent to all these followers around the world. "

Butler's activism started early. "When I was four, I asked my mother where our chicken nuggets came from, because I would always eat them," she said. "I was devastated, I told him I never wanted to eat meat again, but I still love chicken nuggets – the vegan version – and the vegan mac'nchecheese."