Today the Catholic Church celebrates the feast day of one of the most loved and popular saints, St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis is know for his love and care for all of God’s Creation and is the patron saint of animals and the environment.
On November 29, 1979, Pope John Paul II declared St. Francis the Patron Saint of Ecology. He said “As a friend of the poor who was loved by God’s creatures, Saint Francis invited all of creation – animals, plants, natural forces, even Brother Sun and Sister Moon – to give honor and praise to the Lord. The poor man of Assisi gives us striking witness that when we are at peace with God we are better able to devote ourselves to building up that peace with all creation which is inseparable from peace among all peoples.” For a man of his era, a time when they did not have a word for environmentalist, he was the embodiment of the idea of Care for Creation.
Today we honor the works and care he had for the animal kingdom by reflecting on how our food system and our food choices affect the climate. More and more people are concerned about where our food comes from and how eating meat affects the climate. For some people that means becoming vegetarian but for many others it is about making conscious choices about when meat is eaten and where it comes from. They don’t give it up completely but choose eat a little less meat and get healthier. We have substantial amount of choice now when it comes to choosing local, organic, and humane options.
According to a 2015 Chatham House Report “Changing climate, changing diets”, people in industrialized countries consume on average around twice as much meat as experts deem healthy. In the US the multiple is nearly three times. Adoption of a healthy diet would therefore generate over a quarter of the emission reductions needed by 2050!
Factory farms have shown to be a huge impact on our environment and our climate. According to a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, including 37 percent of methane emissions and 65 percent of nitrous oxide emissions. The methane releases from billions of imprisoned animals on factory farms are 70 times more damaging per ton to the earth’s atmosphere than CO2.
The good thing is now we have many alternatives. There are wide ranges of socially responsible, small-scale farms that produce locally. This alternative produces high-quality food, and supports farmers who produce healthy, meat, eggs and dairy products using humane methods.
Today on St. Francis Feast Day think about how you an make a few changes that will make us and our Earth a healthier place. We can make a difference we just need to take the first steps. In the words of S. Francis “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
The Cool Harvest Potluck Kit will help you find delicious, sustainable dishes with limited meat and animal products.