Pope Francis could bring about a huge reduction in global carbon emissions by asking Catholics to return to the traditional practice of Meat-Free Fridays.
A study recently carried out by researchers at Cambridge University has revealed that if Catholics returned to the tradition of not eating meat on a Friday, the change would mitigate millions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
The researchers said that even a small dietary change by a minority of UK Catholics would have significant environmental benefits.
The report argued that a papal decree reinstating Meat-Free Fridays across the church would make an enormous difference.
Traditionally though, the practice of refraining from meat one day a week saw many Catholics turn to fish on Fridays.
The practice dates back to at least the 9th century where Catholics were required to abstain from eating meat (“flesh, blood, or marrow”) on Fridays in memory of Christ’s death and crucifixion.
Catholics make up 10% of the British population
According to economists behind the study, the overall Catholic population in Britain has remained mostly the same for decades, at just under 10%.
In 2011, Catholic bishops in England and Wales called on their parishioners to forego meat on a Friday.
Survey results revealed that 28% of Catholics in England and Wales adjusted their Friday diet following this announcement and of that percentage, 41% stated that they stopped eating meat on Friday, and 55% said they tried to eat less meat on that day.
Meat-Free Fridays are a sensible solution
At the EU Youth Conference in Prague this year, Pope Francis released a letter urging young people to take action towards a kinder future, including eating less meat. He has previous called for ‘radical responses’ to climate change.
He wrote: “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.”
“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.”
Pope Francis is now being called upon to extend that message widely and issue a papal decree to re-engage with Meat-Free Fridays.
Trying to convince a friend or family member to give up meat for a day or more? Check out 30 meat-free recipes the whole family will love
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