Pope Francis has been offered a $1 million donation to a charity of his choice - if he follows a vegan diet during Lent.
The Million Dollar Vegan campaign - which is backed by a host of celebrities, environmentalists and scientists - wants to 'highlight the devastating impact of animal agriculture' including deforestation and biodiversity loss as well the suffering it causes to billions of farmed animals.
Campaign supporters include musician Moby, actor Mena Suvari, and scientist Joseph Poore of Oxford University. It has the backing of environmentalists George Monbiot and Chris Packham. Paul McCartney, a long-time vegetarian and co-founder of the Meat Free Monday campaign, also supports Million Dollar Vegan.
A letter written to the pope by 12-year-old animal rights and environmental campaigner Genesis Butler with the help of the Million Dollar Vegan team – will be printed today in national newspapers in 15 countries across five continents.
In the letter, Butler urges Francis to try a vegan diet for Lent, highlighting the connection between climate change and pollution, and the inefficiency of animal farming and how it contributes to world hunger, the extinction of wildlife and the suffering of farmed animals. These are all issues that Pope Francis has spoken out on in his 2015 encyclical letter Laudato Si.'
"Farming and slaughtering animals causes a lot of suffering and is also a leading cause of climate change, deforestation, and species loss," Butler wrote in the letter.
"When we feed animals crops that humans can eat, it is wasteful. And with a growing world population, we cannot afford to be wasteful."
As part of the Million Dollar Vegan campaign - which was created by Veganuary Founders Matthew Glover and Jane Land - a petition has also been created to ask the pope to try vegan for Lent. If he agrees, the Blue Horizon International Foundation will donate $1 million to the charity or charities of the pope's choice.
Activist Genesis Butler talks about the campaign
Bold vegan campaign
"We are launching this deliberately bold, audacious campaign to jolt our world leaders from their complacency," said Matthew Glover, the CEO of Million Dollar Vegan and Co-founder of Veganuary.
"For too long they have failed to act on evidence of the damage caused to people and the planet by animal agriculture. Worse, many have defended and subsidized that very industry. But the evidence now is stark and compelling, and we cannot afford for them to remain silent any longer.
"We are thankful that Pope Francis has spoken out on these issues 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."
Million Dollar Vegan is encouraging people of all backgrounds to try vegan for Lent and has produced a free Vegan Starter Kit – written in multiple languages and with country-specific content – that is available to download.