Let’s honor our traditions without harming other beings

By Juliana Di Leonardo

As yellow daffodils emerge from the ground, and rotund groundhogs begin to make their appearance scurrying around grassy fields, we are reminded that Springtime is finally upon us. The excitement for longer and warmer days is incited by the playful cat-and-mouse game rendered by the sun; teasing with sporadic temperatures that make us yearn for more heat and a deeper connection with nature. Non-human animals have begun to frolic and flirt along with creating nests, dens, and general family planning. This beautiful season celebrates rebirth, fertility, and new beginnings.

People who observe Easter, a Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ after he sacrificed himself for the sins of others, have gradually incorporated the use of symbols and animals that acknowledge this special time of year. When we now think of Easter, we envision overflowing baskets filled with rainbow-colored eggs, faux grass, chocolate bunnies, jellybeans, and candy along with egg hunts, rabbit costumes, and photo ops, making this holiday especially entertaining for children while acknowledging springtime and its gifts.

During this cheerful time of year, we seem to embrace and welcome new beings such as human and non-human children when admiring a newborn baby or a family of swans, but it also appears there’s a hypocritical undercurrent that allows for speciesism, the belief that one species is above another, to take place. Traditionally, celebrants will create a feast that serves animal carcasses including a lamb, a baby sheep, referred to as the “sacrificial lamb” to acknowledge the sacrifice made by Jesus.

Baby sheep are like any other baby animal, they desire to be loved and cared for by their mother who not only knows every feature they possess, but their specific scent. Lambs also like to cuddle, play, and explore their environment much like puppies. These tiny bouncing clouds of joy do not wish to be served on a plate nor do they volunteer their body for consumption in remembrance of a God or deity who made choices that led to their demise.

Sometimes it’s too easy to become complacent while being distracted by fun activities or by engaging in yearly traditions that have been passed down through generations prior. It’s the benign thought that family togetherness and kindness towards other humans make for a worthwhile holiday, but it instead bolsters an experience that lacks self-reflection and the acknowledgment of what’s important.

For this week’s Anuvrat, I encourage you to celebrate your beliefs and seasonal transitions in ways that practice ahimsa – nonviolence, and rethink how we honor traditions in ways that may run counter to the intentions behind them. Our calendars hold a fresh year of many special days to come so as we move forward into the year 2023, try to let go of attachment and find the right action that will create a more compassionate lifestyle and kinder beginnings.

(Juliana Di Leonardo is the Vice President of Humane Long Island. 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)

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