Plant-Based Earthshot Prize? Vegan Charity & Celebrities Offer £1M & Urge Prince William to Introduce New Category
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A group of celebrities have supported an open letter by UK charity Generation Vegan (GenV), which calls for the Prince William-helmed Earthshot Prize to add a category recognising those who are advancing a shift to a plant-based food system. The co-signees have pledged to match the £1M prize fund awarded to winners of the current five categories.
The Earthshot Prize, founded in 2020 by Prince William and Kate Middleton’s The Royal Foundation, awards £1M each to initiatives that protect and restore nature, clean our air, revive oceans, build a waste-free world, and fix our climate. The open letter says that despite the incredible achievements highlighted, “these five Earthshots fall short of what’s fundamentally necessary to preserve our planet”.
The proposed sixth category aims to award organisations advancing a plant-based food system – a challenge GenV says “we simply have to address”. “Without doing so, we can’t effectively fight climate change, restore nature, clean our air, revive our oceans, eliminate waste, or achieve our UN Sustainable Development Goals,” the letter states.
“We are big supporters of the Earthshot Prize, and at GenV, we are working towards the exact same aims,” says GenV CEO Naomi Hallum. “However, there seems to be a blind spot when it comes to animal agriculture and its devastating impact on the earth, air, water and climate. That’s why we are asking the Earthshot Prize council to introduce this essential sixth prize fund category for 2024, and why we would be delighted to donate the £1 million prize fund to the winner.”
Plant-based for the climate
“Producing food through animals is inefficient, wasteful, dangerous, and driving us towards climate catastrophe. It is the cause of unimaginable and unnecessary suffering for billions of animals, of zoonotic diseases, and dangerous antibiotic-resistant diseases,” says the letter.
“Furthermore, it works against every Earthshot goal on your list. That’s why we must revolutionise our broken food system if we want to save our planet.”
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock farming contributes to 14.5% of all carbon emissions, and a recent report by the Nature Food journal found that vegan diets can cut emissions by 70% compared to meat- and dairy-heavy ones.
The open letter adds that animal agriculture is the leading cause of wildlife extinction, deforestation and loss of biodiversity, and will account for half of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 at the current growth rate.
GenV points to a line by Sir David Attenborough – an Earthshot Prize council member – in his 2020 Netflix documentary A Life on Our Planet to emphasise its point: “We must change our diet. The planet can’t support billions of meat-eaters.”
This is echoed by comments from British actor James Moore, one of the celebrities who support GenV’s open letter. “Our current food system is not only a cause of mass suffering to animals, it is also a threat to the future of our planet,” he says. “That’s why it is so important that Earthshot introduces a sixth prize category and helps create a global plant-based food system.”
A celebrity-backed cause
The 23-strong group of celebrities that signed the letter includes Oscar winners Dame Emma Thompson, Olivia Coleman and Mark Rylance, alongside actors, singers and activists like Annie Lennox, Sharon Osbourne, Alicia Silverstone, Gemma Whelan and Chris Packham.
“With innovation in plant-based foods and cultivated meat advancing rapidly, NGOs working to support public and private behaviour-change initiatives, and decision-makers at all levels piloting and enacting policies that support a transition to more planet-friendly food systems, the potential to positively transform our world through diet is too great to ignore,” GenV says in the letter.
“Yet the people behind these solutions are not receiving the recognition they deserve, nor the support they need to create systemic change and global impact.”
There has been a gap in media coverage about climate change and the impact of food and agriculture on the environment. A report by Faunalytics and Sentient Media found that 93% of climate-related reporting has no mention of animal agriculture, despite the latter being a major contributor to the climate crisis. This is also highlighted by a funding gap – research shows that only 4.3% of global climate goes to agrifood systems, which are responsible for nearly a third of all greenhouse gas emissions.
This could explain why there isn’t yet a category dedicated to plant-based diets in the Earthshot Prize. But GenV and its co-signing celebrities are imploring the fund to change that. “Earthshot rewards people who are working to heal our planet so adding a plant-based category is a no-brainer,” says Osbourne.