What is Million Dollar Vegan?
Million Dollar Vegan is a non-profit campaign seeking to effect global change by highlighting the damage caused to animals, people, and our planet by animal farming. With the support of Meat Free Monday and the Blue Horizon International Foundation, we encourage world leaders to take seriously the causes of climate change, deforestation, species loss, animal suffering and harm to human health, and to take meaningful action.
Whose idea is Million Dollar Vegan?
Million Dollar Vegan came into being through a group of friends discussing and debating how to ensure these vital messages and solutions reach the largest number of people as quickly as possible. We knew we needed a world leader, and one that already understood the seriousness and urgency of the task ahead of us. Pope Francis seemed the obvious choice.
Who is Genesis Butler and why is she challenging the Pope?
Genesis Butler is a 12-year-old campaigner and the youngest ever person to give a TEDx talk. She spoke convincingly and with passion about her vision for healing the planet and how going vegan can reverse the damage we have caused. Genesis chose to become vegetarian of her own volition at the age of four, and became vegan at six years old. It is a lovely coincidence that the Book of Genesis promotes a plant-based diet.
Why the Pope?
Pope Francis – in his 2015 Encyclical Letter, Laudato si’ – has already expressed his deep concern about climate change, harm to the planet and the tyrannical use of animals. He may not be aware that the one thing that underpins all these issues is animal farming. Our hope is that he will try vegan for Lent, and encourage the 1.2 billion Catholics around the world to do the same.
Are you religious?
Million Dollar Vegan has no religious or political affiliations, though some of our team members are people of faith, and we have the support of many Catholics, as well as people of other faiths. We are reaching out to people of all faiths and none, both through world leaders and directly, and urging change.
Do you have to be religious to take part?
No. We welcome people of all faiths and none.
What’s veganism got to do with religion?
Everything! In many religions, caring for nature, animals, and the Creation are important tenets, and there are also many shared principles including: charity, generosity, benevolence, and not harming others. While we are engaging with people of faith, we are also urging people who do not belong to a faith to try vegan. It is down to all of us – not just the Pope, or one religion – to take meaningful action to protect the Earth.
How will you know if the Pope gets your message?
We have full-page letters to His Holiness in national newspapers in several countries, including Argentina and Italy, and we are working with contacts within the Catholic Church who are helping us deliver the message directly to the Pope.
Has the Pope replied yet?
We will be sure to let the world know when he does!
Are you bribing a religious leader?
With time running out, we need bold actions to make sure that individuals, institutions and world leaders hear what must be done to save our planet, and inspire them to act. Our intention is to focus attention squarely on the dangers of climate change, deforestation, species loss and animal suffering, and to create a change in how we each live. The offer is made out of respect for the commitment Pope Francis has already shown to protecting our planet and its inhabitants.
What is Million Dollar Vegan’s position on abortion, LGBTQI issues and the child sex abuse scandal?
Veganism is about compassion for all and we find all acts of intolerance, discrimination, hatred, and violence unacceptable. We recognize there are some very serious issues within the Catholic Church – and within other institutions as well – and some fundamental differences on issues relating to abortion and LGBTQI issues. But all groups and institutions must unite to prevent catastrophic climate change and halt the damage done by animal agriculture. We are thankful for all people out there – whether they are Catholic, of another faith or none – who are working to make the world a kinder, more tolerant place.
What will you do if the Pope ignores you or decides not to take part?
We would be saddened if Pope Francis chooses not to take the lead on this issue and show just how easy it is for all of us to reduce our environmental impact. His involvement is truly important. However, it is not just up to Pope Francis to protect the planet; each of us has a duty to do that, and we hope our campaign will inspire many others to try vegan for Lent – and longer.
Don’t you think the Pope has got better things to do?
We know that Pope Francis cares for the planet and for animals, and we know that animal agriculture is driving climate change, deforestation, and species loss. There are many vitally important issues that he – and other world leaders – must focus on, and protecting the planet is one of them.
Lent is a time when Christians traditionally abstain from particular food items, often meat. It is also common for non-Christians to use Lent as an opportunity to exclude certain products from their diet. For Million Dollar Vegan, Lent is more than penance, and more than a chance to get healthier, it offers us all the opportunity to redress serious imbalances in the world, reduce suffering and demonstrate compassion. Abstaining from all animal products is a spiritual practice that has huge practical benefits, not least for the world’s poorest, and so is very much an act of charity, too.
How will you know if the Pope is vegan throughout Lent?
If Pope Francis says he abstained from all animal products throughout Lent we would certainly believe him.
Didn’t God give us dominion over the animals? Didn’t Jesus eat fish?
Humans were given dominion, not domination, and increasingly, this teaching is interpreted as humans undertaking humane stewardship rather than being part of a system of ruthless exploitation. There is no commandment to eat animals.
Life in the first century was obviously very different to the 21st. There were those who would have gone hungry had they not eaten fish, but for almost everyone on Earth today, this is not true. We can choose to eat peaceably, and know our choices are not contributing to devastating environmental issues or the suffering of animals. It is our view that Jesus would not condone factory farming, the reckless destruction of forests, the loss of species or endangering the world’s poorest through contributing to world hunger and climate change.
What does the Bible say about veganism?
While interpretations vary, the Bible is bookended by veganism. In Genesis, we are told that after creating Adam and Eve, God said to them, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the Earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food’ (Genesis 1:29). With these words, God directs humans to eat vegetables and fruits.
While the whole of creation now suffers and longs for its restoration (Romans: 8), God promises to restore peace among all creatures. In this new Heaven and new Earth, God will ‘wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain’ (Revelation 21).
Why aren’t you asking people of other religions to go vegan too?
We are asking people of all religions and none to try vegan for the sake of the planet, for animals and for their health. Those who would prefer not to associate it with Lent are welcome to download the Vegan Starter Kit and try a plant-based diet at any time.
Do you think meat eaters are immoral?
But many people are beginning to question the morality of devastating the planet, driving countless wild species to extinction, polluting the Earth, keeping animals in appalling conditions and wasting the Earth’s precious resources. For most of us, all these things go against what we believe is good and right. Million Dollar Vegan aims to show people that by excluding all animal products from our diets, we can live in accordance with our principles.
Isn’t going vegan a bit extreme?
Animal agriculture releases more climate-changing emissions than all the cars, planes, ships and trains on the planet. It is a key driver of deforestation; it wastes land, energy and water; and it pollutes the air, waterways and the earth. It causes appalling unnecessary suffering to billions of farmed animals while simultaneously driving countless wild species to extinction.
A plant-based diet, on the other hand, needs less land, water and energy; it is not wasteful of the Earth’s resources; and means that every person on the planet could be fed. It does not demand forests are razed and wild species killed or displaced. It does not create slurry that poisons our air, earth and waterways. It does not condemn billions of farmed animals to a miserable life and terrifying death, and it is kinder to the bodies of those who eat it.
Of the two, we feel that eating animal products is the more extreme choice.
Can I go vegetarian for Lent instead?
Yes, of course! Every step away from animal products is beneficial. But why not use the opportunity to try some plant milks, yoghurts and butters, too? Each small change creates a positive effect. Download the Vegan Starter Kit for lots of meal ideas, and for information about where to buy all the very best plant-based products.
What will I eat if I go vegan for Lent?
There is a vegan version of almost every product, and so it is often just a question of switching milk for plant milk, cheese for vegan cheese and sausages for meat-free versions. There is even meat-free steak available! Whatever your favorite foods and meals are, you can almost certainly create them plant-based. For meal ideas and to find out more about which products are available and where to get them, download the Vegan Starter Kit that is specific to your country.
Where is the $1m coming from?
The money is being donated by the Blue Horizon International Foundation, which invests in and connects the world’s most transformative people, initiatives and organizations, to accelerate the removal of animals from the global food chain.
What is the Blue Horizon International Foundation?
The Blue Horizon International Foundation invests in and connects the world’s most transformative people, initiatives and organizations, to accelerate the removal of animals from the global food chain.
They identify people and organizations truly creating scalable positive impact through awareness and education. They partner with those who know how to disseminate accurate information in ways that change hearts and minds, and empower people around the globe to make kinder and more conscious food choices.
Animal activism is really tough work. Hard-working activists around the world need to be supported and connected to a global community of their peers. They do just this by investing in the most effective activist groups out there, and bringing them together through innovative partnerships.
POLICY & SYSTEMS
They partner with organizations and drive and support initiatives that advance wide-reaching, systematic change toward an animal-free global food system. These include: legislation, food production systems, corporate and governmental partnerships and more.
The Blue Horizon International Foundation is a US-based 501(c)(3).
What happens to the $1m if the Pope does not try vegan for Lent?
We very much hope that Pope Francis will try vegan for Lent, and that he will encourage others to do the same. If he chooses not to, the money will be offered to another world leader’s charity in a subsequent campaign.
Is the money being given to the Pope or directly to the charity he chooses?
The $1m will be given directly to a charity of Pope Francis’s choosing.
How will the $1m be used?
We hope it will be used to further protect the planet, but the decision about which charity or charities receives the money lies with Pope Francis.
Who will be offered $1m next?
You will have to wait and see!
How can I collaborate with Million Dollar Vegan?
Is eating vegan enough, or do I need to adopt a vegan lifestyle?
Since it is the creation of animal products – and not whether we eat, wear or use them – that causes the problems, many vegans also choose to avoid wool, fur, leather and silk, as well as down in jacket and duvets, and animal products in toiletries, cosmetics and household items. But it takes a little time to make these changes, and for most people, being vegan starts with what they eat – after all, that is where we have the biggest impact and can do most good. That is why Million Dollar Vegan encourages people to eat vegan for Lent, but if they would like to do more, that is all to the good.
How are you funded?
We are funded by philanthropists and individual donations. Anyone wishing to support our campaigns can make a donation here.
When is Lent?
Lent begins on 6 March 2019 and ends approximately six weeks later, before Easter Sunday.