teen environmental activist genesis butler Genesis Butler was removed from a talk organized by Global Dairy Platform - Media Credit: Genesis Butler/Instagram

14-Year-Old Vegan Activist Removed From UN Food Systems Pre-Summit

Genesis Butler was removed from a UN Pre-Summit talk after mentioning dairy's impact on the planet

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Fourteen-year-old climate activist Genesis Butler attended a UN Food Systems Pre-Summit last month to learn more about the global dairy industry’s environmental efforts. However, Butler was removed from the Zoom session after raising questions about the environmental impact of dairy compared to plant-based milk.

‘Worried about my future on this planet’

The session was organized by the Global Dairy Platform. It was called ‘Raising the Climate Ambition for the Global Agriculture Sector: An Approach From Dairy’.

On behalf of the UN Food Systems Summit Secretariat, a spokesperson told Plant Based News that the event was not a formal part of the Pre-Summit program. This means that the Secretariat had no control over the discussion or the decision to remove Butler.

In the session, Butler asked why there was not an expert on plant-based milks on the panel. She discussed the importance of encouraging nations to promote vegan dairy, given that it is more sustainable than cow’s milk.

“I also let them know I’m 14 and I’m worried about my future on this planet and this was why I was asking them to address my concerns,” Butler wrote on Instagram. She revealed that other guests asking similar questions were also kicked out of the session.

The vegan activist – who delivered a TEDx talk when she was just 10 years old – said the situation was ‘discouraging’.

She continued: “Our leaders are still focused on an animal-based food system and they are trying to greenwash it. This is why we are seeing an acceleration in the climate crisis. 

“Our ‘leaders’ are stuck in their old ways of feeding and providing energy to the world. This needs to change! A plant based food system is needed NOW, not in the future because we need to make drastic changes now.”

Once word had spread that the teenager was removed from the talk, the Food Systems Summit Secretariat was quick to rectify the situation.

“As soon as we found out, the Secretariat organized the following Instagram Live interview with Genesis on the same day to ensure her views could be heard,” a spokesperson told Plant Based News.

‘Our planet is at stake’

Lara Pappers is the International’s Head of Communication at ProVeg, an international food awareness organization. Pappers also participated as a guest in the session. 

She said that the dairy industry’s unwillingness to take ‘critical questions seriously’ was ‘very disappointing’.

She continued: “The UN Food Systems Pre-Summit is a crucial once in a lifetime climate event and creates a blueprint for climate action in our food systems … When an industry presents questionable sustainability strategies without offering any credible scientific sources, they should be questioned, since, as Genesis pointed out, the future of our planet is at stake.” 

“This seems to be another greenwashing attempt by an industry in decline, which, when challenged, see’s no other way out than to shut the conversation down,” Pappers said. 

“We hope that our world leaders will see through these tactics and add plant-based eating to the international climate agenda as a key climate-mitigation strategy.”

Plant Based News has reached out to Global Dairy Platform for a comment.

*Updated August 23, 2021 at 9:50am BST* 

This article was updated to include the Food Summits System’s response.

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The Author

Jemima Webber

Jemima is the Head of Editorial of Plant Based News. Aside from writing about climate and animal rights issues, she studies psychology in Newcastle, Australia (where she was born).

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Sailesh Rao
Sailesh Rao
10 months ago

Thank you for highlighting this issue. I trust that our leaders will now develop the spine to take on this destructive industry or risk being seen as complicit in the ongoing destruction of the planet. At a minimum, all future UN summits should be default plant-based…

Rowland Ross
Rowland Ross
10 months ago
Reply to  Sailesh Rao

By “destructive industry” I presume you mean ALL AGRICULTURE, both plant and animal as practiced today. As for UN summits, I might suggest supplying genuine sustainable food ( plant and animal ) and allowing delegates to make their own minds up as to what they eat, depending on their tastes and customs rather than being dictated to by someone with a narrow agenda.

(((canaduck)))
9 months ago
Reply to  Rowland Ross

Sure, all agriculture could be made more sustainable, but in nearly every case, plant-based foods already have far less of an impact upon the planet than animal-based ones—even the more sustainable options. That’s why people concerned about climate change are focused on animal agriculture first. Producing, raising, feeding and slaughtering animals is vastly more resource-intensive. When someone is bleeding from both a paper cut and a knife wound, you treat the wound before you worry about finding a band-aid.

This is an data-based site. (You’ll find there is no ‘narrow agenda’.): https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impacts-of-food#less-meat-is-nearly-always-better-for-your-carbon-footprint-than-sustainable-meat

Raven
Raven
10 months ago

I don’t agree with her but she should not be silenced

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