The first Pope to take the name of St Francis of Assisi, patron saint of animals, is also the first to be picked as PETA's (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) Person of the Year.
PETA says: "Pope Francis earned the title for asking all citizens of the world to reject domination over God's creation, treat animals with kindness and respect the environment - something that seems to us can only be interpreted as a subtle call to go vegan, given the well established role of animal agriculture in climate change.
"In his 2015 treatise, Laudato Si', Pope Francis stressed the importance of treating animals with kindness, writing the following:
We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is 'contrary to human dignity'.
He also included these important words to live by:
We are not God. ... [W]e must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God's image and given dominion over the Earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.
"Pope Francis is also known for his focus on environmental stewardship - a concern that PETA shares through their vegan advocacy. According to the United Nations, a global shift towards vegan eating is necessary in slowing the most dangerous effects of climate change, including the extinction of wildlife.
"With more than a billion Catholics worldwide, Pope Francis' animal-friendly teachings have a massive audience. His Holiness is PETA's Person of the Year for spreading the message of kindness to all, regardless of their religion or species, and we hope people will hear his message and choose a compassionate vegan lifestyle."
Previous PETA persons of the year include Bill Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Russell Simmons, and Ricky Gervais.
Read more about PETA, (and apply for a free 'vegan starter kit') here: www.peta.org.uk/
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