By John Di Leonardo
Two months ago, I wrote an article for this column about my arrest alongside 6 other activists in Washington D.C. while practicing Satyagraha, a form of nonviolent noncooperation originated by Mahatma Gandhi, after chanting and refusing to leave the lobby of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in protest of the National Institutes of Health’s funding of nearly 50 million taxpayer dollars to “monkey fright” tests. Three weeks ago, my charges were dismissed. However, even if the worst happened, my life was never in danger. The same cannot be said for my dear friend Pepper who died in 2016.
Pepper was a cat who I rescued in partnership with Beagle Freedom Project in 2013. The first two years of his life were spent inside a cage at an upstate New York laboratory where he was used for product testing. When we brought him home, Pepper’s fur was coarse like steel wool and he was severely underweight. He had a multitude of behavioral issues: not understanding the concept of personal space, mistaking play behavior for aggression, and eating in such a voracious manner that he would often throw up.
Over the next two years, I rehabilitated Pepper and he learned to love life, bounding everywhere he went. He even developed a fondness for the other species of animals we rescued, caressing chickens, nuzzling ducklings, and starring alongside me and a turtle named Frankie for Rescue Men USA’s 2016 Calendar. There was not a mean bone in Pepper’s body, which made it all the harder when he was diagnosed with aggressive intestinal cancer 6 months later. We brought him to three vets who all agreed that the years of product testing had wreaked havoc on his body and there was nothing we could do except make him comfortable.
Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, former President of India, once said about Acharya Tulsi’s teachings, “A civilized human being must be free from greed, vanity, passion, anger. Civilizations decline if there is a coarsening of moral fiber if there is a callousness of heart. Man is tending to become a robot, a mechanical instrument caring for nothing except his material welfare, incapable of exercising his intelligence and responsibility … This is unfortunate and to remedy this growing indiscipline, lack of rectitude, egotism, the Anuvrat Movement was started on March 1, 1949. It requires strict adherence to the principles of good life.”
While I couldn’t save Pepper from the years of abuse animal testing inflicted on his body, rather than remaining angry about what happened to Pepper, I’ve chosen to exercise my intelligence and responsibility by making a small vow to only use products marked “Not Tested on Animals.” I’ve also decided to fight against vanity by lobbying for the bipartisan New York Cruelty Free Cosmetic Act (A.5653-A/ S.4839), which will prohibit the sale of any cosmetic product that has been tested on animals after the date January 1, 2023, thus bringing New York in line with nearly 40 countries and eight U.S. states that now prohibit the sale of new animal-tested cosmetics. I urge you to contact your Senator and Assembly Member and do the same.
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].
People Also Ask … … ….
What religions did Jainism influence?
The focus of Jainism on non-violence (ahimsa), had a strong influence on both Buddhism and Hinduism. This is seen in the Hindu tradition through the gradual abandonment of animal sacrifices and increasing emphasis on symbolic and devotional forms of worship in the temple.