Swan Song: May all beings be happy and free

28 May 2021

Drinking my morning coffee a couple of weeks ago, I was entranced by a story on the news about a man who lives on a boat in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, who had saved a Swan’s nest from rising waters.

The river had flooded for several years previously, and the pair of Swans had sadly lost multiple clutches of eggs to the rising waters, and also to foxes.

Rob Adamson, the man in question, not only built a raft underneath the nest whilst the mother was sitting on it (she apparently remained calm and let him get on with the job!), but also enclosed the area with a temporary fence so the foxes wouldn’t get either the eggs, or the signets once they hatched. Apparently daddy swan looked on and resisted attacking Rob, although he kept a beady eye on proceedings. These birds seemed to me to be completely aware that this man was helping them, and rather than attacking or fleeing, remained in situ whilst he did so.

This is such a heart warming story of those who take time to think of and help in the lives of other beings on our beautiful planet. But even in the UK, we’re only just seeing the recognition of animals as sentient beings.

The Government has just released a bill to recognise vertebrate animals as sentient beings in law. (Unfortunately other species will have to wait their turn.) Whilst it’s definitely a case of better late than never, it does beg the question: how could anyone ever imagine that animals are anything other than sentient? If you own a pet you’ll know what I mean. If you’ve observed animals in nature or on wildlife documentaries, you’d be hard pressed not to recognise that sentiency in animals is a fact. To not recognise that animals can experience a wide range of emotions, and to be affected by pain and suffering, is just unthinkable in my view.

In an ideal world I would want to see cruelty to animals become a thing of the past. Thankfully, some steps are being taken in this direction. For example, new legislation is being made in the UK to tackle pet theft, with stronger measures being implemented to target perpetrators. In addition, tougher prison sentences for animal cruelty will come into force this summer, meaning that the maximum prison sentence for animal cruelty will be raised from six months to five years from 29 June 2021. But still, mankind as a species has a long history of exploiting other species for pure profit, regardless of the cost to the animals and to the planet, and that exploitation continues today.

Yoga’s philosophy on this topic is definitely “live and let live”. Ahimsa, non-violence, applies to everything we do, and every species we interact with. This philosophy is encapsulated in the beautiful chant:


This translates as:

May all beings be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way, to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

In our classes this week we’ll be celebrating the efforts of the “swan man”, and the beautiful family he rescued. Swan pose, anyone?


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