Reading’s Catholics are being encouraged to cut back on their meat consumption this Lent, with priests in the Berkshire town joining forces to exhort the faithful to enjoy at least one meat free meal a week.
The meat free appeal is a response to last year’s call by Pope Francis to address the current “ecological crisis” facing the world, which he blamed on the indifference of the powerful and to which the meat and livestock industries contribute disproportionately. In an encyclical, or papal statement, the pontiff said that everyone had a duty to address “the urgent challenge to protect our common home”.
Signed by six priests, the appeal spells out the environmental degradation being wrought by the livestock industry on a world that Christians believe was created by God. As well as explaining that the production of meat – on its journey from farm to fork – is responsible for 15 per cent of the planet’s harmful greenhouse gas emissions, it underlines that raising equivalent amounts of grain or vegetables for human consumption uses far less land, water and resources.
Lent lasts from Ash Wednesday (10 February) until Easter Sunday (27 March) and represents a period of fasting for Christian worldwide, when they remember the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness before his crucifixion.
In what has become known as his “climate change encyclical”, Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be to You”), Pope Francis said in June last year: “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.
“We have to realise that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach. Leaving an inhabitable planet to future generations is, first and foremost, up to us.”
And it’s not just the Catholic Church taking action. In 2012, four Anglican bishops showed their flock the way to culinary and environmental enlightenment by giving up meat entirely for Lent.
If you attend a church, then why not start a discussion about starting a similar campaign? It can be for Lent or carry on beyond. You could even suggest, for the sake of people and planet, that you and fellow worshippers join Meat Free Monday.