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. 😊