Barrier Brewery holds benefit for animal lovers


Those with an affinity for beer and beasties came together on June 12 at Barrier Brewery in Oceanside for Animal Lovers Night. The event was a fundraiser for Humane Long Island, which raised $370 and boasted live music, art and craft merchants, and pop-up vegan food vendors. John and Juliana DiLeonardo are the heart and soul of Humane Long Island, a mostly volunteer organization whose mission is to create a kinder place for animals throughout Long Island, from Manhattan to Montauk.

The DiLeonardos are passionate advocates for animals, providing rescue, rehab, and advocacy. They encourage those who are looking for pets to “adopt, don’t shop.” They also advocate for veganism.

“We rescue about 1,000 animals every single year, but the average person can save 200 animals yearly simply by leaving them off their plate,” John DiLeonardo said.

The funds raised at Animal Lovers Night will go toward their mission of animal rescue, but ultimately, the DiLeonardos would like to acquire a large location where they can do educational events, workshops, and have more room for their transitional sanctuary. Their current location is a space in Riverhead that is not big enough to do all that they want to do.

“We’re not a traditional sanctuary where we keep animals forever,” Juliana said. “We’re always rescuing, rehabbing, and then adopting out. That’s our mission. If we were to have a traditional sanctuary, we’d fill up very, very quickly and then we wouldn’t be able to help any more animals.”

Humane Long Island works with a network of reliable foster homes, where people provide the animals with food, medical care, and safe shelter until they’re ready to move on to permanent homes. According to Juliana, there seems to be a great need among fowl, with the most recent rescues being a Muscovy duck, a peahen found injured at a construction site, and a rhea kept in a Bellmore home.

Humane Long Island is always happy to receive monetary donations, but they’re also open to any type of volunteer work. This includes helping with rescues, transporting animals, fostering, or helping another volunteer who is fostering an animal. Experience is not necessary since the DiLeonardos are happy to teach, and some knowledge is just gained through the experience of helping.

John DiLeonardo started college on a path to being a school psychologist, but when he learned about factory farming, he switched his path and graduated in the first anthrozoology program in the United States from Canisius University in Buffalo. Anthrozoology is the study of the relationship between animals and humans. He became a vegan in his early 20s, having never met a vegetarian or vegan before.

Humane Long Island was founded out of a protest movement to shut down Cole Brothers Circus about 10 years ago. Every day for two months, John and other volunteers set themselves up a block from the circus to educate the public about the treatment of animals. They were ultimately successful in getting the public to change their minds about this form of entertainment. His efforts resulted in the circus shutting down for good. This was his first and most personal success story resulting from his advocacy. The next Humane Long Island event at the Barrier Brewery will be held on July 31.

One of the vendors, Alexandra (Sasha) Todaro, a health care provider and a healer, registered dietitian/nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist, meditation instructor, and a reiki teacher, came to sell t-shirts and other items. She sported a t-shirt with the message, “I think, I feel, I’m vegan.”

Todaro decided to become a vegan 8 years ago after gradually transitioning her diet to eat less and less meat and animal products. She came to the realization on her 50th birthday that she didn’t want to contribute in any way to the cruel and harsh conditions under which animals exist who are raised for our food. She believes her life is her message, and veganism is a way to align her values for compassion and kindness. It is also a healthier way to eat and better for the planet.

“I have a dream,” Todaro said. “One day I won’t be special, I won’t have to say, ‘I’m vegan!’”