Genesis’s letter to Pope Francis

This letter was published in The New York Times (US), The Guardian (UK) and national newspapers in 13 other countries on February 6th and 7th 2019.

Your Holiness Pope Francis

As we approach the period of Lent – a season of reflection and hope – I write to you today with the utmost respect and appreciation for your speaking out on climate change, habitat loss, and pollution, and for reminding the world that Earth is a home we all share.

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.

The current eating habits of predominantly richer nations are causing global destruction and devastation. Animal farming uses 83 percent of agricultural land but yields just 18 percent of our calories. With 815 million people suffering from malnutrition, imagine how many hungry people we could feed across the world if we moved away from such wasteful foods.

Not only does animal farming impact on the world’s poorest, it contributes 14.5 percent of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. It is also a leading cause of deforestation and the current mass extinction of wildlife. Agricultural chemicals and animal waste are polluting our rivers, while overfishing and runoff are destroying our oceans.

Your Holiness, we must act. Moving towards a plant-based diet will have substantial environmental benefits. It will protect our land, trees, oceans, and air, and help feed the world’s most vulnerable. It can also benefit human health, as a plant-based diet has been proven to reduce the risk of many common chronic diseases, such as heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers. As a result, a growing number of doctors and dieticians are advocating vegan diets in documentaries such as What the Health.

All of these things matter to me, and my heart truly aches for the billions of animals trapped inside factory farms who will never see daylight or be allowed to rear their young. That is why I launched the Genesis for Animals non-profit organization.

In 2017, I was the youngest person in history to give a TEDx talk about my vision for healing the planet and how going vegan can reverse the damage we have caused. My journey to help save the planet started with my love for animals, and has continued as I’ve learned how our current system of food production is putting so many of our lives in danger. We need to take action, and we need the support of influential leaders like yourself.

Today, Pope Francis, I am asking you to join me in abstaining from all animal products throughout Lent, and to endorse the Million Dollar Vegan campaign.

Should you join me, the Blue Horizon International Foundation will donate $1 million to a charity or charities of your choice as a gesture of their utmost gratitude for your commitment.

I would be delighted to come and meet you to discuss these issues.

With every best wish to Your Holiness,

Genesis Butler, age 12

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