Pope challenged to go vegan for Lent in exchange for $1 million charity donation
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A 12-year-old animal rights activist and a vegan campaign are calling on Pope Francis to go vegan for Lent.

In an open letter published in The New York Times and more than a dozen newspapers worldwide this week, Genesis Butler and Million Dollar Vegan offer the pope a $1 million charity donation in exchange for his giving up animal products for the Catholic period of Lent, which begins March 6.

In the letter, Butler praises Francis for speaking out about environmental concerns and poverty, and pitches a plant-based diet as a catalyst for “substantial environmental benefits.”

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“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,” she writes. “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.”

Last year Francis warned that climate change “will leave future generations only rubble,” and also issued warnings to oil executives.

Butler, who became vegan at age 6, recently started an animal rights nonprofit. She has been recognized by animal rights groups with a number of awards, and gave a TEDx talk at the age of 10 about the environmental benefits of a vegan diet.

“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,” she writes in her open letter. "We need to take action, and we need the support of influential leaders like yourself."

CNN reported that the $1 million charity donation would be donated by nonprofit animal rights group the Blue Horizon International Foundation.

The Million Dollar Vegan campaign is backed by a number of celebrities, including Paul McCartney and Woody Harrelson.