I want to first thank you for your messages of peace and connection, Pope Francis.
When you visited our American shores not too long ago you breathed new life into not just your followers but as I see it, to everyone who heard the message you brought. My heart was warmed to hear your message of religious freedom and compassion towards immigrants. The apology you brought on behalf of victims of clergy sexual abuse will help those who endured those atrocities finally heal. Your statements denouncing greed in capitalism, renouncing papal infallibility, and your determination to change the introspective and Vatican-centric nature of the Holy See are brave moves that will help to unite us all. And of course, your question of " Who am I to judge?" when asked about the status of gay priests birthed a new consciousness in the Church that is unprecedented. I was thrilled when you appealed to the masses about the crisis of climate change. I waited with baited breath for you to tell the world what I believe to be arguably the number one cause of global warming -- factory farming. I was beyond disappointed that while you said climate change was "mainly" caused by human action and called for a global "ecological conversion" that didn't include a moving away from consuming animal products. Animal agriculture is responsible for most greenhouse emissions which is believed to be almost double than the combined exhaust from all planes, trains and automobiles combined. Livestock and their byproducts account for at least 32,000 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) per year. Livestock is responsible for 65 percent of all human related emissions of nitrous oxide -- a greenhouse gas with 296 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide which stays in the atmosphere for 150 years, as reported by the United Nations. At the rate we are consuming animals, emissions for agriculture projected to increase by 80 percent by the year 2050. Even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565 gigatonnes CO2E limit by the year 2030. This is a catastrophe.
I cannot comprehend how all of our world leaders, including all of those who just signed the Paris Agreement last week and all of those who are running to be our next President, are not giving this the voice it demands. As you are certainly aware the cost of factory farming affects every part of our ecosystem, destroying our rainforests, polluting our waterways, consuming our precious water (for example, animal agriculture is responsible for 80-90 percent of US water consumption and 2500 gallons of water are needed to produce one pound of beef), ensuring there will never be an end to world hunger and poisoning our future generations with food that is making them sick.
Our US government is certainly not helping as they subsidize the meat and dairy industry with 40 billion dollars each year, while giving a mere 17 million dollars to fruits and vegetables. Clearly, the pleas of the United Nations to eat less meat is not being heard or acted upon by the very people we elected to protect us and our children. This message is clear- poisoning our children with meat and diary will continue so long as it continues to bring in billions of dollars, regardless of the consequences. This can no longer be kept quiet - the world needs to know. We can fight for equality, health care, prison reform, etc. but none of it will matter because the Earth in its present form will no longer be inhabitable by humans. It's that simple.
You have addressed the life and death struggle for water and the extinction of species as being key threats to our future, identified our "ecological" debt to the poor and our responsibility to shoulder the burden when possible to save lives and even made suggestions about practical ways we can conserve energy. It is bewildering to me that you have ignored the elephant in the room- animal agriculture. At least everyone else is on the payroll, I think I trust the Catholic Church is not?
The world watched as you reenacted the washing of the feet of the twelve apostles, some being women and Muslim inmates, making it clear that you are a true progressive. To hear you speak so eloquently about the Church's purpose - explaining that it was more to proclaim G-d's merciful love for all people than to condemn the sinners for having fallen short of strictures' such as issues pertaining to their gender or sexual orientation was a beautiful message. In these open hearted instances; I am reminded that you are speaking in what I have always believed be the true word of G-d.
When you brought your campaign for action on climate change to the United Nations, which was the largest gathering of world leaders in UN history (close to 200 prime ministers, presidents and potentates) I applauded. And when you said that you blamed environmental degradation on our selfish thirst for power and material prosperity that causes untold suffering for the poor who are cast off by society I was on my feet in a standing ovation. Your statement of promoting "absolute respect for life in all its stages and dimensions " is what this generation needs to hear. However, I would like to respectfully add what is, in my opinion, the most important missing piece to your dialogue: eating less meat.
Human greed results in the raising and slaughtering 150 billion plus animals a year that is not just destroying our environment but putting our health at risk leading us down the road of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and a slew of other health issues. The vast majority of meat and fish in supermarkets today contains one or more of the following types of contaminants: antibiotics, growth hormones, prozac, heavy metals, or other toxins/new substances that poison the animals and poison/fatten the animal and in turn, people. These contaminants are bad enough for adults, but they can be especially harmful to children whose bodies are still growing and developing.
Cattle raised on U.S. factory farms are dosed with hormones and other animals are fed large amounts of antibiotics/prozac in order to make them grow more quickly and to keep them alive in filthy, severely crowded conditions that would otherwise kill them. Feeding the drug-tainted flesh of these animals to our kids is risky--children's small bodies are especially vulnerable to antibiotic and hormone residues.
The risk to children is so great that many other countries have banned the use of antibiotics and hormones in animals who are raised and killed for food.Your appeal to the public to lean away from poisonous animal products would literally save the planet and all of its inhabitants. Not to mention the animals that we share our precious Earth with.
Clearly, you are on the animal's side. Your quotes such as "It is contrary to human dignity to cause any animals to suffer or die needlessly," or " All creation has an intrinsic value that is independent of its usefulness," or "Jesus says of the birds of the air that not one of them is forgotten before G-d, how then can we possibly mistreat them or cause them harm" and "Each organism, as a creature to G-d is good and admirable in itself...we are called to recognize that other living beings have a value of their own in G-d eyes" are defining moments in our history for equality for all.
Your personal decision to abandon fur trimmed velvet capes speaks volumes about your consciousness about animals. It is because of these reasons and more that I beg of you to continue your reign of compassion by encouraging a move away from eating animal products. There is no G-dly way present in the manufacturing of life, the torture of that life or the slaughter of a life that only wants to live until his or her last gasping, bloody breath.
The business of meat and dairy alternatives are booming. More and more people are reaching for their tempeh, tofu and non-dairy options and enjoying the health benefits associated with making the switch. Having this discussion about global warming and not mentioning animal agriculture when we know factory farms are more dangerous than all transportation is cow poop.
I don't believe you have to be of any one religion to know and act on what our hearts and should tell us is right and ethical. I believe I am in good company, since Jesus wasn't a Christian, Lord Buddha wasn't a Buddhist, Mohammad wasn't a Muslim and Abraham wasn't a Jew. Whenever a new Pope is elected, I hold out hope for him (or one day, her) to re-consider their position on abortion, birth control, women's rights in clergy and LGBT marriage equality. To be honest, I haven't had much faith that any of these issues would change. That is, until you, Pope Frances became the Church's leader. In you, there is blossoming hope.
As a yogi, I believe that love is the basis of all religion and funnel their way to one collective entity of G-d. Love for all humans, regardless of race, class, gender or sexual orientations. Love for all beings, regardless if they have skin, scales, fur or fins. Please use your powerful voice to help the public understand that the animals born into suffering and who have only known suffering from the moment of their birth until the second of their slaughter is the worst Karmic disaster in the history of the world. Their suffering is senseless and unholy. America has surrounded you with love on your previous trip and you are deserving of it all. I only humbly ask that you continue to spread the word, Your Holiness, of doing no harm. That is the universal law that we must all bow down before. May the Lord continue to bless you and your message of compassion for all.