By Juliana Di Leonardo
As our planet begins to experience more frequent and severe weather conditions, devastating fires, and extreme temperatures, it has become collectively obvious that something needs to be done to keep these tragic events at bay, but sometimes it can feel hopeless not knowing how to help. The first and simplest way to begin healing our planet is to evaluate our plate.
As veganism becomes more popular, whether for ethics, health, or environmental reasons, we are seeing an increase in the number of new plant-based products available in our local supermarkets like Shop Rite, Stop and Shop, Wild By Nature, Whole Foods and more. This has resulted in the creation of delicious plant substitutes for just about every animal product out there. At this point, eating a plant-based diet is easier than ever, making the excuse of it being too difficult, untrue. However, even with the popularity of veganism rising, I still often encounter die-hard individuals trying to explain that their meat consumption is okay because they “eat humane” or they think that they don’t eat a lot of meat, but “cage-free” simply means bigger cages, and “free range” animals are still slaughtered brutally and in many cases are caged most of their lives as well. In any event, most of these people eat animals with every meal.
In a recent New York Times article titled “Vegans Make Smaller Mark on the Planet Than Others” the author explains that a plant-based diet is one that requires less resources from the earth and creates less of a carbon footprint. Dr. Scarborough, who led a peer-reviewed study at Oxford University, states that “if meat eaters in the United Kingdom who consumed more than 3.5 ounces of meat a day (slightly less than the size of a quarter pound burger) cut their intake to less than 1.7 ounces a day (roughly the amount of a single McDonald’s meat patty) it would be equivalent to taking 8 million cars off the road”. When compared to a meat-heavy diet, “vegan diets resulted in 75 percent less land use, 54 percent less water use, and 66 percent less biodiversity loss.” This is a reminder to everyone to make the decision to drastically limit their consumption of meat or consider even eliminating it altogether, to save not just our own lives and the lives of animals, but the life of our entire planet.
There’s a wise saying that “baby steps are for babies” and in this climate crisis, we don’t have the luxury of dragging our feet, however, even if one is not willing to give up their attachment to animal products overnight, trying vegan even one meal a day or one day a week, can help heal our planet and start a journey toward a kinder lifestyle.
As Mahavira said, “Non-violence and kindness to living beings is kindness to oneself”. By being kind to all animals, especially the ones on our plate, we extend kindness to ourselves and the world we live in. For this week’s Anuvrat or small vow, I encourage you to take animal products off your plate and to peruse your local grocery stores for substitutes that will make your transition to a kinder lifestyle less challenging.
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.