A new year has vegan

The other day I was out walking in my one of my local parklands. I don’t see too many creatures here in winter, so I mainly go to visit an animal I’ve dubbed ‘Squirrel Grumpy’ who, unlike most of the friendlier red squirrels I hang out with, regularly shuns my company. Undaunted, I always seek him out in the tree where he lives. This particular day, he was nowhere to be seen, but I sensed he was around, so I left out some peanuts and told him I’d be back. When I returned, I spotted him up on a branch and said ‘hello’. He whipped his head round, looked me straight in the eyes and scampered into a hole in the trunk. Love you too, Squirrel Grumpy. It makes me laugh every time.

Further on, along the other side of the river, I spotted what looked like an ownerless dog scurrying along the snowy slope, which I realized must have been a coyote. I don’t see them very often and they get a bad rap in this city for their potential danger to off-leash dogs, but to me, it’s always a privilege to see a wild animal, free from human intervention.

What strengthens my relationship with animals is that I don’t want to use them in any way or believe that they exist for my benefit. As a vegan for nearly 30 years now, I see animals as fellow creatures sharing this planet, deserving of kindness and respect.

To me, this speaks to the real essence of Veganuary – not just choosing plant-based meals, which is an excellent start, as focusing on our health in this way also improves the health of the planet.

But beyond this lies a capacity for us to reestablish a deeper connection with the natural world and all who live within it. To be able to look at an animal without calculating its use, but instead with a sense of wonder and joy, with a freedom to enjoy its beauty and splendor. This is the real gift of Veganuary and beyond – to love animals in a spirit of kinship and peace – even the grumpy ones. 😊

New year, new humanity

The New Year has entered more with a splash than a bang, where I am, as wet, winter weather cascades around me. It doesn’t feel like the most inspiring time to make resolutions or feel that things will change for the better, but it is also a good time to take stock and plan for the future in the best way that we can.

Having worked in retail over the holiday season, I saw all forms of human life at work – quite literally. I interacted with people from all backgrounds and walks of life. There’s nothing like the craziness of holiday shopping to bring out the vast array of human emotions – anxiety, frustration, exhaustion, but thankfully, elements of patience and kindness too.

It’s these last two that I want to carry over to the new year. Let’s learn to be more patient with one another and more forgiving of imperfections. People will make mistakes – it’s a natural part of being human. And while computers are potentially quicker and more efficient, they won’t greet you with a smile or a personal conversation. As computers continue to replace humans at an alarming rate, let’s savour our myriad of individual interactions while they last.

And what a difference a little bit of kindness can make to someone who may be having a bad day or is lonely and in need of contact. It’s easy and costs nothing to smile and show a bit of empathy to another. There are times you may need it too.

Everyone is talking about a buzz word for 2023. I think the one we most need in this world is ‘share’. We need to learn how to share more with each other, and with all the creatures of this world, to mete our resources more equitably, more fairly, and with more generosity and compassion.

This planet is home to more of us now than ever – human, plant and animal species. Let’s work on improving the way we live together and to be more mindful, respectful and more compassionate to one another. Perhaps then we will be inspired to focus on turning the Earth’s problems around and maybe, just maybe, this year will be the start of a brighter and healthier future for us all.