By John Di Leonardo
We’re coming into a new year and that means you may be thinking about a New Year’s resolution. Perhaps you’re thinking about getting leaner or building more muscle. Maybe you’d like to be a little kinder or live a little greener. Perhaps you simply want to give more back to your community. By following just one simple ANUVRAT—or small vow—that of ahimsa—or nonviolence—, you can accomplish all these resolutions simultaneously.
Ahimsa—or nonviolence—is a primary tenet of Jainism. For Jain ascetics, this vow is a Mahavrata—or major vow—and may be observed by wearing a mask to avoid accidentally ingesting insects or gently sweeping their path with a broom so as not to accidentally step on any insects who may be hiding in their path. However, each of us can easily follow this path to a lesser extent by simply leaving animals off our plates and out of our closets. Traditionally, this requires vegetarianism and the avoidance of animal-based fabrics, however, I would contend that in the year 2023, we can (and should) easily take this a step further and avoid all animal products (including dairy and eggs) as well, strengthening our minds, bodies, and souls all at the same time.
As noted by Michael Grunwald in The New York Times last week, “Earth is in the midst of the worst mass extinction since an asteroid wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago — and this time, the asteroid is us … if current eating and farming trends continue, the world will clear land equal to at least one and a quarter Indias by 2050. That would be a disaster for the climate and wildlife, dooming carbon-rich and biodiverse ecosystems like the Amazon and Congo rainforests.”
Thankfully, in the year 2023, there are an infinite number of tasty and healthful replacements for animal flesh, eggs and dairy. One can buy soy or oat milk in nearly every grocery store and even many coffee shops. And Beyond Meat, which makes realistic plant-based meats out of vegetables like peas and beets has become widely available at food marts and even major restaurant chains like TGI Fridays.
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, vegans are less likely to develop heart disease, cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure than meat-eaters are. In fact, NFL players like quarterback Cam Newton and world-record strongmen like Patrik Baboumian are now going vegan to both help animals and improve performance.
“Ahimsa Parmo Dharma” is a Sanskrit phrase popularized by Mahatma Gandhi. In short, it means, “Nonviolence is the highest duty.” This year, I encourage each of us to take this ANUVRAT a little bit more seriously and better our health, the environment and the lives of animals by only consuming compassionate, animal-free
John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION). He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].