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    •   Dec. 10, 2011   
    • COP-17: A message from the Supreme Master Ching Hai
    • Supreme Master Ching Hai, the spiritual leader who founded the Quan-Yin meditation method, hosts a vegan banquet on the sidelines of the UN climate change summit in Durban.

      The truth is out: veganism is not just for animal lovers, but also for anyone who cares about the effects climate change will have on the world.

      According to Supreme Master Ching Hai, the diminutive blonde spiritual leader who founded the Quan-Yin meditation method, climate change talks should focus more on the harmful effects of methane, which is produced by livestock farming, rather than on carbon dioxide produced from burning coal.

      A vegan banquet on Thursday night, on the sidelines of the Durban-hosted meeting of almost 200 nations that are battling to find a solution to climate change, proved the perfect vehicle to spread her message to sometimes sceptical delegates.

      Ching Hai has been a tireless advocate of veganism, and her followers regularly attend climate change talks, offering tofu sandwiches to hungry delegates. Born in Vietnam, she is an international humanitarian and philanthropist, a poet and the author of several books.

      Although she did not attend the banquet, guests were treated to an extended video message in which she explained the devastating effects of climate change, why combating methane was an important part of the solution, and the health benefits offered by a vegan diet.

      Veganism, she said, would bring world peace, enabling all to live in harmony.

      Her message was echoed by other speakers, including Indian parliamentarian Maneka Gandhi, Kenyan scientist Daniel Maingi — also the executive director of Biowatch and the Animal Welfare Network of Africa — and American Stephan McGuire, who produced the climate change documentary The 11th Hour.

      Methane, she told guests, was the single largest contributor to climate change, and it was mostly produced by the livestock industry. Livestock farming has been blamed for deforestation, air-particle pollution (known as "black carbon"), soil erosion and desertification, habitat destruction and biodiversity loss, water pollution, disease and waste.

      Nasa scientist James Hansen and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chairman Rajendra Pachauri, she said, had both recommended that meat consumption be reduced as part of the solution to climate change.

      The statistics rapidly began to blur. Luckily, the food arrived at this point. Guests were served a mushroom soup, a coleslaw with mint and coriander, and a main course of soya meat, tomato sauce, mashed butternut and spinach ravioli.

      Unfortunately, the vegan wine tasted rather too much like sickly sweet Ribena.

      Back in 2008, another UN body, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, estimated meat production was responsible for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, while ruminants, particularly cows, emit methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more effective as a global warming agent than carbon dioxide. The agency has also warned that meat consumption is set to double by the middle of the century.

      "More than 2bn people are already short of water and food, and 300000 die every year due to climate change," said Ms Ching in the video screened at the banquet.

      She also raised warnings of methane trapped under the Arctic permafrost and in the acidifying oceans that could be released if global temperatures continued to rise.

      "By 2030, temperatures could rise by 1,5°C to 4°C. In 2010, after thousands and thousands of hours of deliberations (at UN climate change conferences), sea levels rose four to eight inches," she said.

      Not all the delegates were equally happy with their food. One pushed away his plate after barely touching his salad, saying: "It’s my first time eating this type of food."

      This did not stop Maneka Gandhi, the next speaker, from expounding on the delights of mock meat, made from soya. In the US, mock meat sales have reached $2bn a year, while meat and poultry sales are worth $100bn a year.

      "This represents huge growth potential. It’s an exciting business opportunity," she said, arguing that mock meat was cheaper, easier and healthier to eat than real meat.

      She said she wanted to see a fast-food restaurant chain based on mock meat. Children, who are increasingly aware of environmental issues, would be the perfect target, and through them, their parents. (The Supreme Master Ching Hai already supports a chain of vegan restaurants, known as Loving Hut.)

      Although countries may drag their feet on agreeing to a comprehensive treaty for climate change, "there is nothing stopping you from making a change", Ms Gandhi said.

      Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, she said: "First they will ignore you, then they will ridicule you, then they will engage with you. And then you will win."

      The gala was filmed for 24-hour television channel SupremeMasterTV.com.

      Sceptics should note that googling Supreme Master Ching Hai brings up Godsdirectcontact.org.

      Courtesy of: http://www.businessday.co.za/articles/Content.aspx?id=160300
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