How going vegan liberated me

By Juliana Di Leonardo

Sometimes the path of least resistance can feel validating especially when everyone else is doing it too. As humans, we find comfort in customs or beliefs that help us feel connected to our loved ones, ancestors, culture, and religion but how often does one reflect upon those traditions they wholeheartedly subscribe to? Often, we choose to wear blinders to avoid the exposure of any perspective that might challenge our already fixed ideologies. As children, we absorb the knowledge and wisdom passed down from our parents and or other respected family members without any doubt that their teachings might be false.

Prior to becoming vegan, I was taught that it was okay to eat the flesh of animals and to consume their byproducts. I was known as a “good eater” or as an “adventurous eater” because I had little reservation to what I put in my mouth. I have eaten most land mammals and fowl, their babies (lamb and veal), lots of sea creatures including whale, and specific organs such as chicken hearts and sweetbread (calf thymus).  As I think back to that person, I cringe. I trusted and accepted that I needed those animals to keep my body healthy and strong, but I was misinformed. 

After growing up in an Italian American household, it was not easy for my family to accept a lifestyle change that undeniably sparks an examination of their own values and choices. I was often met with inaccurate rebuttals because they were unaware that dairy cows are forcibly impregnated by farmers to produce milk or that the dairy industry is inextricably linked to the veal industry. They didn’t know that male chicks are ground up alive in the egg industry simply because they can’t lay eggs. These things were never discussed, and they unknowingly believed that their “food” production was not a tragedy for others. I had once enjoyed feasting on traditional dishes my family and I would prepare for holidays or get-togethers, but those practices only perpetuated the harming of others and myself. I had never been able to stick to a diet, but I valued ethics, and it made my transition more effortless. I first removed land animals from my plate, then fishes and other sea creatures, and lastly eggs and dairy. My progressive Anuvrat of quitting one after another type of food may have upset a lot of people because of my decision, but their anger lay in their guilt. For me, liberation brought empowerment and a new perspective on life. There is no room for greediness, Aparigraha is the way to go, more so when the truth, Satya, is uncovered.

It is most certainly difficult to unlearn and break away from the nuclear mindset that has been programmed for decades and generations, and it is uncomfortable and unpleasant to swim against a current of which so many people have relinquished control. No matter what belief or thought pattern requires letting go, the action will only aid in moving forward and evolving as a person. I encourage you this month to reflect and make a small vow, an Anuvrat, to free yourself from any attachments that hold you back from becoming the most beautiful version of you.

Juliana Di Leonardo is the Vice President of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION). She is a yoga and ballroom dance instructor, model, and artist. Her advocacy for animals exploited by the fashion industry was credited in the 2021 documentary “The Face of Fashion is Fear” and recognized by PETA with a Hero for Coyotes award.

People Also Ask: 

Do Jains believe in an afterlife? 

Jainism explains that, as a result, of karmas associated with their souls, living beings have been going through the cycle of birth and death since times immemorial. Unless the soul gets rid of its karmas, it will never be free. When a living being dies it gets reborn.  

Images courtesy of Provided and (Image provided)

Share this post