MEDIA RELEASE: COP28: Pope’s Secret Message To Combat Animal Farm Emissions Wins Support from Interfaith Leaders
VATICAN CITY (Nov. 21, 2023) — Over 50 religious and environmental organizations and leaders have written to Pope Francis supporting the hidden message in his recent apostolic exhortation, Laudate Deum, and urged him to directly address the negative impacts of animal agriculture on the climate when he attends the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Dubai from Dec. 1-3. The letter, organized by In Defense of Animals’ Interfaith Vegan Coalition and the Plant Based Treaty, also urges the pope to consider compassionate treatment of animals who suffer in animal agriculture, which pollutes our planet and contributes to world hunger.
Pope Francis issued Laudate Deum on Oct. 4 to address the climate crisis. It follows his 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’, On Care for Our Common Home, which teaches humanity about the intrinsic value of all God’s creatures.
Signatories of the coalition letter expected Laudate Deum to build on Laudato Si’, by explicitly defining human interaction with animals and nature as the root cause of the climate and ecological emergencies facing our world.
Pope Francis says in the Laudato Si' encyclical, paragraph 221: "We read in the Gospel that Jesus says of the birds of the air that ‘not one of them is forgotten before God.’ How then can we possibly mistreat them or cause them harm?"
Since animal farms cause extreme cruelty to billions of birds each year and cause tremendous environmental devastation through water and air pollution, the pope has implicitly condemned animal agriculture in Laudate Deum. Pope Francis’ actions make the secret meaning of Laudate Deum even more apparent.
The Vatican selected author and Farm Forward founding board member Jonathan Safran Foer to give a keynote address in response to Laudate Deum on Oct. 5 at its conference for accredited journalists, “Laudate Deum: voices and testimonies on the climate crisis.” Inviting Foer, a vocal critic of factory farming and an advocate for reducing the consumption of animal products, to interpret Laudate Deum publicly is a hopeful step toward the Vatican’s critique of industrial animal agriculture and the pope’s moral basis for ending factory farming. In his keynote address, Foer predictably urged the Vatican’s audience to eat fewer animal products, and support food systems reform and policy-level change to address the climate crisis (text and recording).
In their letter to Pope Francis, religious leaders welcomed the secret message of Laudate Deum and asked his holiness to address the negative food system impacts at COP28 through a specific teaching on morality in human-animal relations. Their letter cautions that even if we end fossil fuel extraction today, greenhouse gas emissions from the food system alone will warm global temperatures beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius.
According to a recent study published in Nature Food, plant-based diets reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution and land use by 75 percent or more compared with diets containing more than 3.5 ounces of meat daily. Plant-based diets were also found to cut wildlife destruction by 66 percent and water use by 54 percent. Humanity can only achieve sustainable and integral ecology by repairing our relationship with animals and nature, which leaves no room for cruel and polluting animal agriculture.
The letter states:
We ask Your Holiness to sound the alarm at COP28 about food system impacts missing from the Paris Agreement. Please use your influence to encourage collective action to safeguard our future. Johan Rockström, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, says, "The final battle over whether we successfully deliver on the Paris Climate targets rests on whether we are able to transform the global food system.”
This year scientists confirmed that six out of nine of our planetary boundaries have been breached. Mentioned earlier Johan Rockström, the highest class specialist, says, "The way that we produce food in the world is the single largest reason that we have transgressed planetary boundaries. It is the single largest threat to the stability of the planet and our life support systems, from fresh water, pollinators, and soil health, to rainfall generation, and quality of air and water. Present food production is putting our future at risk."
We respectfully ask Your Holiness to call on societies to reduce the consumption of animal products, to transform food systems towards plant-based production, and to treat animals ethically and sensitively. This will be a powerful part of the response to the climate crisis.
"The pope's apostolic exhortation Laudate Deum creates a powerful moral framework for thinking about the food we eat as both a source of climate change and non-human suffering. We're incredibly encouraged by the Catholic institutions around the world that are engaging with the pope's exhortation and working to align their food choices with their values."
— Andrew deCoriolis, Farm Forward
“Our Interfaith Vegan Coalition is heartened by Pope Francis’ concern for our environment and urges Pope Francis to use his influence to sound the alarm at COP28 and consider the plant-based solutions presented in our letter. We eagerly anticipate an upcoming Exhortation on mercy for animals who continue to suffer flagrant atrocities on factory farms that pollute our planet.”
— Lisa Levinson, Interfaith Vegan Coalition, In Defense of Animals
"We have run out of time. We are at a crossroads. We know what Jesus would do. He stopped the bloody sacrifice of animals in the Temple. We know that the world itself is God's Holy Temple. The power of God is flowing through us now to stop the bloody sacrifice of trillions of animals, to stop dominating and destroying the precious planet God gave us to care for, and to live in partnership and Divine Love with all Sacred Creation."
— Judy McCoy Carman, Interfaith Vegan Coalition, Circle of Compassion, and Peace to All Beings author
“The food system and in particular, animal agriculture has breached 5 out of 9 of our planetary boundaries, risking the stability of Earth. The need for a plant-based food system is more urgent than ever.”
— Nicola Harris, Plant Based Treaty
"Dear Holy Father, many animal and human caring Catholics are disappointed that Laudato Deum does not mention the horrible Animal Agriculture industry, the horrendous suffering animals endure at the hands of humans in slaughterhouses and in animal lab testing. St. Francis of Assisi was correct by calling all living beings his brothers and sisters. They are our little brothers and sisters and we are called to protect and care for them. It would have been a great opportunity to address these important issues and how living a peaceful plant-based diet would be more in line with Jesus's teaching ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”
— Fr. Donatello Iocco
“In 2015, the Catholic Church welcomed with great rejoicing the encyclical of Pope Francis, Laudato Si. It was a great step forward and a cause of hope for all people of goodwill. Thus, with the advent of Laudate Deum there was much expectant anticipation. Laudato Deum begins well and seems, at first, to promise further development of the Pope’s thinking around creation and everything that that entails, but regrettably it fails to deliver. Those of us who were hoping for greater development of thought around non-human life, end up being disappointed. In fact, there is so little mention of animals, per se, that the reader has to search quite hard to find such references as there are! As Pope Francis concludes the document, he says, “When human beings claim to take God’s place, they become their own worst enemies” (LD#73). We might add that, when human beings claim to take God’s place, they become the worst enemies, too, of the animals, and that’s desperately tragic. If only Laudate Deum had helped us to see this!”
— Fr. Terry Martin
“I am a Vegan because I don't wish to inflict harm on animals but also because I think it is the way forward for the planet given the present crisis. Christian Veganism seems to be completely in keeping with Jesus' injunction to love our neighbors which, for me, includes the animal creation and indeed the planet itself.”
— Fr. Derek Reeves
“Promoting meat reduction does not convey the urgency of the matter. If anything, the new Papal encyclical is about urgency as our planetary home is on fire. When our home is on fire, we don't ask our fellow residents to throw fewer burning matches, but we ask them to stop throwing matches and join the bucket brigade. We need to stop appeasing the animal agriculture industry. It is undoubtedly the most destructive and redundant industry on the planet. We must find the courage to say clearly that it needs to be shut down with deliberate haste.”
— Dr. Sailesh Rao, Climate Healers
"In Laudate Deum, Pope Francis rightly emphasizes the urgency of the climate crisis. But to address this crisis we must acknowledge the fact that industrial animal agriculture is the biggest contributor to it, and stress the urgent need to move to a plant based diet. And we must support farmers to make this change. We must also do this because it is a sin to abuse God's Creation, as we do in factory farms and all other systems of animal exploitation, and because our treatment of our brothers and sister, the animals, is interconnected to the health of the planet and ourselves. We cannot bring peace to the human world, a peace that is so badly needed, while we practice violence on other animals."
— Barbara Gardner, Animal Interfaith Alliance
“To the words of Albert Schweitzer: ‘Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living beings, humanity will not find peace,’ I would add that the compassionate and merciful attitude of Jesus should not be applied only to humans, but to all who are weaker and vulnerable. We should be to other creatures what Christ is to us. And, if we do not quickly change our attitude towards other inhabitants of the Earth, if we do not stop exploiting them callously and cruelly, we will not hinder the climate and environmental catastrophe. We will all perish, and God will judge us. Around the Judge's throne will sit... animals.”
— Barbara Niedzwiedzka, Christians for Animals, Poland and Laudato si’ Movement Animator
“If we accept St Francis of Assisi's exhortation, ‘Not to hurt our humble brethren (the animals) is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission: to be of service to them whenever they require it,’ then we must treat any animal in need as our neighbor.”
— Virginia Bell, Catholic Action for Animals
In Defense of Animals started the Interfaith Vegan Coalition to help animal activists and spiritual leaders bring vegan values to spiritual, ethical, and religious communities. The coalition provides faith-based tools to help all faith and secular wisdom traditions practice the ideals of nonviolence, lovingkindness, and harmlessness toward all animals. The coalition is composed of 43 member organizations, 4 allied organizations, and one partner organization Animal Interfaith Alliance comprising 17 organizations, all working in harmony for a common cause.
As a companion to the UNFCCC/Paris Agreement, the Plant Based Treaty aims to halt the widespread degradation of critical ecosystems caused by animal agriculture, to promote a shift to more healthy, sustainable plant-based diets and to actively reverse damage done to planetary functions, ecosystem services and biodiversity.
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Interfaith Vegan Coalition member Catholic Action for Animals Published Letters:
The Tablet, November 2 (scroll down)
Interfaith Vegan Coalition and Plant Based Treaty First Letter to Pope Francis addressing Laudato Si:
Interfaith Vegan Coalition and Plant Based Treaty Second Letter to Pope Francis addressing Laudate Deum:
Religious and secular organizations can sign on to the second letter at: idausa.org/LaudateDeum
Interfaith Vegan Coalition Signatories:
- Animal Interfaith Alliance
- A Prayer for Compassion Film
- American Vegan Society
- Animals' Prayer Flag Project
- Bhakti Marga
- Catholic Action for Animals
- Christian Animal Rights Association
- Christian Vegetarian Association
- Christians for Animals (Poland)
- Circle of Compassion
- Climate Healers
- Committee of Consciousness
- Compassion Consortium
- Compassionate Living
- Compassionate Spirit
- Concern for Helping Animals in Israel
- Creation Care Church
- Dharma Voices for Animals
- Green Islam
- Faith Action for Animals
- Fraternitè pour le Respect Animal (France)
- God’s Creatures Ministry
- In Defense of Animals
- Interfaith Vegan Alliance
- Jewish Veg
- Karuna Music and Art
- Main Street Vegan Academy
- Million Vegan Grandmothers
- One Love Animal Connection Ministry
- PETA Lambs
- Quaker Animal Kinship
- Seeds to Inspire Foundation
- Shamayim: Jewish Animal Advocacy
- St. Francis Alliance
- The Black Vegan Experience
- The Spiritual Forum
- The Vegan Museum
- Together in Creation
- United Poultry Concerns
- Vegan Spirituality
- Vegan World 2026
- World Vegan Assembly
In Defense of Animals, Interfaith Vegan Coalition co-founder, Lisa Levinson, [email protected], 215-620-2130
Plant Based Treaty, Plant Based Treaty Global Coordinator, Anita Krajnc, [email protected], +1 416-825-6080 and Communications Director, Nicola Harris, [email protected], +44 7597514343
Christians for Animals - Poland, Prof. Barbara Niedzwiedzka, [email protected], +48 608 376 667
In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization with over 250,000 supporters and a 40-year history of fighting for animals, people, and the environment through education and campaigns, as well as hands-on rescue facilities in California, India, South Korea, and rural Mississippi. www.idausa.org
The Interfaith Vegan Coalition (IVC) helps animal activists and spiritual leaders bring vegan values to spiritual, ethical, and religious communities. The IVC provides tools to help all faith and secular wisdom traditions practice the ideals of nonviolence, lovingkindness, and harmlessness toward all animals. www.interfaithvegancoalition.org
The Plant-Based Treaty is a grassroots initiative calling upon national governments to negotiate a landmark international treaty — the first of its kind to put food systems at the heart of combating the climate crisis. www.plantbasedtreaty.org
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