Pope Francis is urging people to eat less meat, over concerns about the planet. With Europe’s worst heatwave in history ravaging swaths of the continent from Britain all the way to Portugal and Spain, wildfires devouring France, and train tracks buckling and cutting off normal travel, the Pontiff released a letter to the EU Youth Conference in Prague, urging young people to eat less meat.

His hope: By changing the way Europeans think about their food, it will help to mitigate the climate crisis. Pope Francis’ letter shows his passion for climate action and optimism about the future. He expressed his belief that the younger generation shows a sincere desire to create a kinder, better future for the planet. He asked them to transform the continent.

“I would like to tell you something that is very close to my heart. Above all, I invite you to transform the ‘old continent’ into a ‘new continent,’ and this is only possible with you,” Pope Francis stated in his letter. “I know that your generation has some good cards to play: you are attentive young people, less ideologized, accustomed to studying in other European countries, open to volunteering, and sensitive to environmental issues. This is why I feel there is hope.”

The letter emphasized that young people can take charge to solve the planet’s inherited problems from previous generations. This proclamation emphasized that action needs to be taken to protect our “common home”, especially in the face of the worsening climate crisis. The Pope suggested that removing animal products could serve to help protect the planet from the animal agriculture industry.

“May you aspire to a life of dignity and sobriety, without luxury and waste, so that everyone in our world can enjoy a dignified existence,” Pope Francis wrote. “There is an urgent need to reduce the consumption not only of fossil fuels but also of so many superfluous things. In certain areas of the world, too, it would be appropriate to consume less meat: This too can help save the environment.”

Response from Young Climate Activists

Today, Genesis Butler, the 15-year-old climate activist and ProVeg International Youth Board member, welcomed Pope Francis’ message. The young activist stated that Pope Francis’ urgent call is a “step in the right direction” for climate change, potentially inspiring young generations worldwide.

“It’s great to hear Pope Francis call on young people to reduce the amount of meat they eat,” Butler said. “He is such an influential voice in the world and many people take what he says really seriously. So I was glad he spoke out and I think it’s a step in the right direction.”

Butler previously visited the Vatican in 2019, urging Pope Francis to go vegan for Lent. She offered to donate $1 million to a charity of the Pope’s choice through the Million Dollar Vegan Campaign. The Pope declined the offer but released a statement thanking the campaign and Butler for working towards a healthier, better Earth.

“We’re launching this bold campaign to jolt our world leaders from complacency. For too long they’ve failed to act on evidence of the damage caused by animal agriculture; many have subsidized that very industry, but we cannot afford for them to remain silent,” Million Dollar Vegan CEO Matthew Glover said in a statement at the time. “We’re thankful Pope Francis has spoken on these issues, which is why we’re asking him to try vegan for Lent, and set an example of how we can align our principles of compassion with our actions.”

Immediate Climate Action Needed

This Tuesday, the United Kingdom experienced the hottest day recorded in British history. In Spain and Portugal, wildfires and unprecedented heat waves have killed hundreds and impacted the farmlands, forests, and homes throughout the region. Over the last week, Europe has seen the beginning of the climate crisis, and now, world governments are conceding that climate action is needed. While governments still stall to enact policy, a growing body of research indicates that eating plant-based, even partially, can help curb the worsening climate crisis.

While two-thirds of the continental US is in a “red zone” of record temperatures, real climate action remains obstructed in a divided Senate. Animal agriculture is responsible for 57 percent of food-related greenhouse gas emissions, but a plant-based diet can help reduce this figure by up to 61 percent.

This April, the United Nations revealed that there is still time to combat climate change, suggesting that a key solution is promoting plant-based food production and eating. By undercutting the emission and waste of the animal agriculture industry, citizens around the world can take immediate, simple action to protect the planet.

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