WHY FRANCE IS THE WORST EUROPEAN COUNTRY FOR ANIMAL RIGHTS

For non-human animals, all countries are bad. All „humans“ who are not vegan condone and pay for animal abuse in all the gruesome forms it exists. From meat and dairy, eggs, to leather, fur, torture for entertainment, and experimentation on animals – it is all built on a mountain of suffering, mutilation and murder.

The title, therefore, does not mean that other countries on the European continent are a safe haven for the innocent victims of human hate and desire for domination. Far from it. Yet, most other countries take strides towards the evolution of empathy, and towards a ban of the most egregious torture practices, however slow the evolution is. Germany is at the forefront of vegan food and raising awareness on the Animal Holocaust (and Berlin was just voted No. 2 on the Top 10 Vegan Cities list by HappyCow). The UK even more. Switzerland, France‘s neighbor, even had a referendum to ban factory farming! It wasn‘t banned (sadly), but more than 30% of residents voiced their opposition, and I have no doubt they will get there soon. Hell, even Bosnia and Herzegovina (my country of origin) recently witnessed its first ever vegan festival, organized in the capital city by VivaBiH, the national Vegan Association.

So, why exactly is France the worst? Surely there has been some progress here, as well?

The short answer is: no. No, there hasn‘t. Sure, it has some vegan options. Sure, there are associations raising awareness on the plight of non-human animals. But when taking into account the place of France in the grand scheme of Europe, its constant urge to become leaders on this continent in all aspects of life, including the evolution of the human thought („We are the birthplace of modern democracy!“), its representatives and the actual level of evolution are pathetic.

The core of the „French identity“ is founded on the suffering of our fellow Eathlings so much that people here take pride in the cruelty and torture they inflict upon them. Take for example foie gras: while it is illegal in several developed countries in the world, and even King Charles recently banned it from the British Royal Court, naming it “torture in a tin”, here it is celebrated and adored. People mock others who do not enjoy in an effort to portray them as simple peasants of poor palate. Let me remind my readers that this awful „delicacy“ is made by force feeding ducks and geese multiple times a day so that their liver gets sick (hepatic steatosis), after which it is eaten as a whole or ground up. The birds are confined in crates so small they cannot move. The workers shove long metal tubes down their throats, which also causes organ failure, injuries to the birds‘ beaks and throats, pneumonia. Moreover, Animal Equality notes that „the wire cages can cause foot and leg injuries, and the intense confinement is mental misery for these normally curious and sensitive animals.“ Of course, at the end of this unimaginable torture (think the „Gluttony“ murder from the movie Se7en, lasting for weeks), the poor birds are violently slaughtered. All that is foie gras.

The French have made their whole identity on cruelty and torture. The more cruel the practice, the better it is for the „food“ they consume, and the „entertainment“ they watch. Who cares if bullfighting originated in Spain! They gleefully stole the practice of killing innocent animals for barbaric thrills and made it their own. Empathy is considered weak and unaristocratic, and if there‘s one thing the French desperately want to be, it‘s the aristocracy of Europe and the world. Being cruel is being sophisticated. Inventing torturous devices is being more intelligent than others who are „beneath“ them. And after literally decades of waiting for the bill to ban bullfight to arrive at the French Parliament, yesterday it was pulled from the debate. The pro-torture representatives sent over 500 ridiculous amendments to stop the ban, even though the majority of regular French citizens (77%) oppose bullfights. A stolen torture masked as the foundation of tradition and identity is defended yet again. The Dark Ages are alive and well here, and the inquisition of animals is endless.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is France. The worst European country for animal rights bar none, because it forcefully wants to superimpose the notion of nobility and culture unto hateful dominion, unto pain and unto unimaginable suffering. A country of despicable acts, of atrocious parliamentarian games, of identity smeared with blood of the innocents. A shameful land, a disgraceful identity. No culture.

I am ashamed and enraged to be here. But in the word of Banksy, „From this moment, despair ends, and tactics begin.“ With my activism, and along other activists, I will do everything in my power to usher this country into true Renaissance, one founded on empathy and liberation of all victims, regardless of the species. As Aymeric Caron, the representative who proposed the bullfight ban bill, said yesterday: „What’s just happened today, isn’t an end… but it’s just a start.“

/Image courtesy of: Animal Equality; Lisa Markkula / Peta France/

VEGAN VIGNETTES: THE ORIGIN OF EVIL

Today is my 12th anniversary as a vegan and thus, a little literary treat is due here, from me to you. A plethora of musings is still cooking and brewing in my mind from this decade+ of actively pursuing the path of least harm, but this is an idea I only started delving into a few months ago, after reading a couple of enlightening posts on our relationship to non-human animals.

I had mostly ascribed to the thinking that people kill non-human animals for two simple reasons: pleasure and profit. In other words, the majority of people (pay to) kill animals because they like meat, and not the other way around (i.e. like meat because they kill animals for it). While this is certainly true for some members of mankind, it still doesn’t account for the amount and level of violence and depravity inflicted by us on our fellow Earthlings.

In a post titled „Why Animal Oppression is a Form of Hatred“, George Martin / Carnism Debunked writes: „While profit is indeed one of the driving factors in the oppression of non-human animals, we cannot ignore that there is a deep-seated yet seemingly subconscious hatred for non-human animals that allows this to happen – this is shown in how people react when the oppression of a human group is mentioned by vegans in the same breath as the Animal Holocaust (‘are you comparing Jews to pigs?!’ /are you comparing a black person’s experience to that of a fucking cow?!’). To deem it as some kind of ‘insult’ for one to be mentioned in the same breath as the world’s most marginalised group absolutely is a form of hatred, though the person taking offence might not realise it.“ He also points to the fact that only a minority of people actually profit off the enslavement and exploitation of animals (that is, the oppressors, such as slaughterhouse workers, are not profiting at all), and that, when we want to insult someone, we almost always resort to animal terms such as „disgusting pig“, „filthy rats“, „stupid cow“ and the like. Hatred, he concludes, actually is more of a driving force in animal oppression that profit.

Humans hate animals. The reasons we hate animals are manifold, but all come down to one. See, we like to weave a story out of our evolution that conveniently positions us at the highest ring of the ladder, as if we’ve been purposefully made and given all the best abilities to succeed and rule over this planet. Sort of a proof of our divine heritage, shall we say? We think we are the only ones who have created languages – our temples are of Babylon origin. We conquer and make things that flash and make noise. We revel in our own false perfection, destroying wilderness around us one cement block per second, building concrete fortresses and laughing when a bird is caught in a maze of glass and metal. And yet, without the embrace of steel, fabric and technology, we are the most fragile creatures out there. Our offsprings cannot fend for themselves until they are at least several years of age. They are furless, weak little things, susceptible to cold and fever, wounds and diseases. Even as adults, we are no different. We are powerless in the face of our true, natural surroundings. We are weak.

Not only are we weak, but we have been gifted with far less than our fellow Earthlings. As Stuart Wilde writes: „We tend to think animals are lower than us, but all the scientists in the world couldn’t design and operate a bumblebee’s wing. We can’t jump or run very fast, and we can’t carry vast weights like an ant can. We can’t see in the dark and we can’t fly except crammed in a noisy tube like sardines, which doesn’t count. Humans compared to animals are almost totally deaf […] We are finite and separate, and neurotic, while the consciousness of an animal is at peace and eternal.“

So we see animals and all that they are and what they can do with grace and ease, in a harmonious existence with nature… and a primordial rage awakens in us. Why have they been bestowed with such abilities, such gifts, and not us? Why are we so cold unless we make fire? Why can’t we read nature’s signs and find water? Why are we blind in the dark? Where is our instinct? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones who are the end goal of all this evolution? The epitome of God’s final and complete design? The questions come, but no answers arise.

And so we seethe, enraged by weakness. Envy of other creatures consumes us. Why are they so beautiful and whole and we are but scattered parts of cold and thirst and pain in the stomach? Why do they have it all, and not us? The shame becomes the urge for supremacy. „It is we who are supposed to be the rulers of this planet, not them. We are the next step in evolution, not just a dangerous derailment. Someone else is badly designed, not us.“

And we have told this fairy tale to ourselves until it became a foundation of superiority we desperately want. If there is one thing we know how to do, it’s to believe in lies we tell enough times to carve it into our minds and belief systems. We laugh at animals when they try to escape the hell we make for them. We denounce their language and screams because we are the ones who do not understand them, nor do we wish to. We destroy their homes and call them vermin, yet our propagation on this planet and its continuous destruction by us is verminous behavior, as succintly put by a movie character not so long ago. If they are especially esthetically pleasing, we steal their feathers and skin, leaving a pile of bones in our wake. If they are meek, we exploit them for their very flesh, hiding the violence behind grey doors of a slaughterhouse because it might seem too disturbing. It just might wake us from the slumber of lies. We invent a thousand ways to torture them and hack them to pieces because no matter what we do, we cannot steal their gifts. And that, again, is proof of our inferiority. We are weak and the subconscious knowledge of it is the ground for our hatred. We hate animals because in their very existence, we see how utterly imperfect we are.

Some might say it also shows how much hatred we harbor for our own design, but that is not completely true. Our hatred of animals does not point inwardly. If we look at it from a spiritual or even mildly religious point of view, the almost universal hatred of animals across cultures, races, and other human characteristics is based on the fact that they are the ones over whom we can universally dominate. We do not have the right to do that, but we do it nevertheless. We are inferior to God. Celestial beings have abilities we don’t. Celestial bodies, too. Weather – we cannot control it either. Each other? Other races, genders, religion, sexual preferences, choice of clothing? Attempts at those are constant and continuous, but there are thoughts that evolve and paint our efforts in a bad light. So, what is left? Who is left for us to bully? We can’t be the last ones overpowered by everyone and everything else, can we? We must subjugate someone at least, show that we are not the weakest in all of existence.

Other species. The one group of individuals that we perceive to surely be „under“ us all. And there, in this false cycle of supremacy, we find our spot. We resort to evil towards other animals, driven to madness to feel significant, to feel in control. We separate mothers from their babies and laugh while we bludgeon them to death, only to drink the mothers’ milk. We pluck their eyes out, we drill holes in them while they are still alive, we take photos with their corpses. We erect statues to each other to prove to someone somewhere how big we are. We wrestle animals we perceive as strong and tackle them to the ground, showing a knife in their throats. We desperately want to show just how strong and important we are, but deep down, we know that none of our „victories“ over others matter. To weave another thought by Wilde here: „We can make a bomb or carve a statue but it’s a statue to our importance, a power trip, none of it serves any real purpose.“

Animals do not only have consciousness – they have a soul. A very pristine one, as put by Wilde. And no matter what evil we do to them, we can never steal it, for it is at the core of their hearts and minds. Blind and succumbent to hate, we continue to perpetrate the Animal Holocaust, which drives us further and further away from finding our own consciousness, our own soul. All for the sake of dominion. All for the sake of hatred.

This World Vegan day, I invite you to reach for the one idea that can truly make our slaves, and us, free: the tenet of doing good. Of respecting the basic rights of all beings. Of rejecting the anthropocentric evil we do every single day.

Instead of evil, choose veganism.

/cover image: public domain
images below: courtesy of prijatelji-zivotinja.hr/

A BOSNIAN IN FRANCE… CHAPTER 4: WAR, MUSIC AND THE HYPOCRISY OF EUROPE

I’ve been toying with the idea of renaming this blog to properly suit my intentions here, and I believe I finally got it. So, from now on, the blog „An Expat in France“ officially continues as „A Bosnian in France“. I’d say it’s quite suitable for the intended purpose, and it also echoes one of Sting’s classics.

Now, onto the topic itself. Last week Europe was in its regular annual Eurovision fever. Songs were heard, performances were discussed. Ukraine (deservedly) won this year’s Eurosong. Yes, it was a sympathy/empathy vote, too, but I firmly believe music should also have a message that goes beyond the rhythm and lyrics. And yes, next year’s competition can be held in Ukraine if the Russian aggressor is finally kicked out of the country. It would be a cathartic rebirth and recognition of human values we like to say we cherish inside.

However, this is not the first time one part of Europe was celebrating, while another one suffered in the noise of bombs. Back in 1993, Bosnia and Herzegovina, my homeland, participated in the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time as an independent country. Our own Muhamed Fazlagić Fazla, along with the accompanying ensemble, literally had to go through hell to come to that shiny stage. Bosnia was suffering from an aggression by Bosnian Serb paramilitary forces & former Yugoslav army. They wanted to obliterate us, and there was no pardon for children, or mothers, or artists who just wanted to sing. As per this thread and other sources, first our delegation had to flee besieged Sarajevo to get to Millstreet in Ireland. They were forced to run across the airport tarmac, were shot at so hard the conductor had to give up and stay behind. Six people who tried to escape that night were killed, while 17 were wounded. The singer, Fazla, had to try twice. On the second attempt, he lost his shoes in the mud of the destroyed airport runway and kept running, barefoot. But that was only the beginning: after that they had to walk ten kilometers over the 1510 meter high mountain Igman. Igman is a symbol of suffering, and many people did not survive the journey over the mountain. Because of cold, exhaustion or Serbian killers. Ten kilometers through snow and mud, up a mountain, in danger from armed murderers. Our Eurosong delegation survived. The delegation then had to pass another obstable when it was stopped around Mostar by the HVO (Croatian forces), the soldiers of which were saying „There is no Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina“.

Despite the historic, geographic and other differences, so far one could have the argument that these were, more-or-less, the kind of conditions that the Ukraine delegation also had to go through, but Ukraine isn’t besieged in the same totality as Sarajevo, and their path is open. Our dance of death, as the Mirror describes it, took extreme courage and luck in impossible conditions, above all things – because hardly anyone knew or cared, as opposed to now & Ukraine.

But this is the point where, really, any sort of resemblance disappears. Even when that iconic line „Sarajevo, we’re hearing you“ broke through the applause that erupted amidst a ‘screeching’ telephone line from the besieged Sarajevo, our delegation faced obstacles that the Ukraine delegation (luckily) didn’t experience. There was tremendous media attention, but sometimes for bizarre reasons. See, for many journalists, the fact that our singer is called Muhamed and also has blond hair and blue eyes was raking their brains. The additional fact of his model height (1,90) was another point of bewilderment. Fazla heard the line „You don’t look like a Muhamed!“ every day, to which he asked: „What is a Muhamed supposed to look like?“ The above-linked thread continues: „Those who already knew that Muslims can also ‘look European’ still wanted to exclude him from Europe. A Croatian journalist tried to portray Fazla as an ‘Islamist’ just because he had a green jacket.“

Seriously? Suddenly green is a forbidden color? Judging a man who lost his shoes while escaping from the snipers? It still baffles me almost 30 years later. But despite these finely-tuned obstacles and discrimination, Fazla knew why he had to sing for Bosnia: “The music was a symbolic interaction to prove that our struggle against aggression and genocide and everything we had to endure was right and human. And that we will win in the end.”

Just consider the following lyrics:

„All the world’s pain is in Bosnia tonight
I stay here to defy the pain
And I’m not afraid to stand in front of a wall
I know how to sing, I know how to win
Tonight when the tears on my face freeze
I will not let fear overcome me
Who will keep watch instead of me
So that the evil doesn’t repeat itself?”

He knew that he needed to nurture our tortured souls. People in shelters struggled to find a source to watch or hear the contest, soldiers on the battlefield gathering around a battered transistor and crying at the chorus – that night, Bosnia’s cries were heard in Europe and in many of its corners for the first time.

But why was his name and religion important? Why is that a measure of worth in Europe? Why did our song end up in 16th place, and Ukraine won? Who ‘deserves’ to be perceived as European and human, and who not, according to this? Is it only bestowed upon persons with an ‘approved’ religion, heritage and physical appearance? In case I need to spell it out for you, Bosnia and Herzegovina is in Europe, too. We are Europeans just like you are. The apsurdity of Europe’s hypocrisy is often, like now, loud and clear.

Speaking of hypocrisy, why is Palestine barely in the news? Palestine, a territory massacred to appease a religious group and steal it from its righteous owners? Why is there hardly any concern, let alone action, against a massive scale genocide (including organ harvesting and sterilization) of Uyghurs in China? I am glad that France and some other countries denounced these despicable acts, but why is doing it an act of shattering diplomacy with Beijing? Why does the USA have to play the role of the world’s policeman, but actually likes to oppress people and bring down governments for profit? I am not proposing to deny one injustice and crime (the aggression on Ukraine) over another (all of the above). I am simply and genuinely asking why there is such a sharp difference in standards of Europe (and the world)? Are we Muslims less worthy of someone’s compassion? Why is the fact constantly negated that us Bosnians are part of Europe? Of the world?

The reasons for these questions are as loud today as they were then. My beautiful country is ravaged in a time of supposed peace by nationalist politics from the main neighboring countries (same old), there is a seed of poison growing in it as well, and there is pressure everywhere to be less. Less Bosnian, less Muslim, less oneself. Whether you are in Bosnia or abroad, these sometimes invisible forces push your head down into a guillotine of self-loathing and hiding, because they hate what you represent and they are afraid. Afraid of my beautiful Bosnia, of all the highest human values that lived in my country for centuries. CENTURIES. Afraid of Islam, because that generational blood speaks volumes about the crussades their ancestors led in the name of another religion, so they’re projecting (those who have issues, of course – I am NOT generalizing). Hypocrisy much?

But you will never be able to silence me and my existence. The same with my enlightened compatriots. And when you tell me in the face that my language does not exist and that I am actually speaking another language, I will laugh in your face (this one’s about you, genocide denier from the Office of Immigration – shame on you. Luckily, you’re in the minority, because all the ladies there are respectful and helpful). If you make jokes about my name and conflate me with another nation, I will call you out on your racism and mysogyny (another „humanoid creature“ here in France who is yet to feel my full wrath). At first, I played nice here, trying to be as polite and kind as possible (also another trait of us Bosnians that gets us into trouble sometimes because we are TOO nice). But, it’s been a few months since I released my spite and my full presence here and I breathe nicely now, thank you. If that’s too much for you, Europe, well, tough titty, said the kitty! I will forever be a true ambassador of my identity here. An ambassador of respect towards others, but also of pride towards my own. By the way, those are true European values, and not atrocious things that end in –ism – check yourself, EU.

And one other thing: Bosnia will exist forever. Because the ethereal idea of Bosnia, of a land with beautiful nature and beautiful, kind and welcoming people, of love – that will never disappear. My body will rest in soil and disappear itself, but Bosnia is and will be long after that.

Muhamed Fazlagić, our blond and blue-eyed singer, showed all that on the Eurovision stage. And he sent hope into this world. Hope of not only helping Bosnia, but also the hope of seeing the love of his life again. The song was a love letter to her: „I cannot take the stars down from the sky / I can’t find the road, the road to the universe / But I can send you this song / So that you know that I’m alive, my love.“

They reunited during Eurovision and haven’t been apart ever since. A few months after the contest, they returned to Sarajevo. He performed for our troops and they both survived, thank God. How’s that for a love story? How’s that for a European story? How’s that for a human story?

Music achieved something valuable back in 1993, despite the votes. I just hope that there will be no countries at war and no genocide anywhere next year. An utopian thought, perhaps, but a thought to strive for. We Bosnians know very well what the oppressed people around the world are going through, at the hands of oppressors and new Hitlers and Karadžićs, and so we know the importance of that thought being born into action. A voice, an act against the evil. Against hypocrisy.

VEGAN VIGNETTES: YOUR LIFE

I was talking with my husband earlier tonight and upon touching the inevitable topic of vegan meals during holidays with one’s family, I finally articulated something that has been swimming in my thoughts for some time now. A thought that is both of spiritual and compassionate nature.

When you have children, it’s sort of usual to expect that you will be there for them until an old age, so we feel that our physical fitness for longevity is pretty much given (even though it, of course, isn’t). But, when it comes to grandparents, we don’t have the same expectation because we have been inclined to think, and it has been culturally imprinted on us, that their health is something that we can’t really negotiate, and that whatever years they have with their grandkids, our offspring, are just like a gift. High blood pressure creeps in. First heart attacks start to appear (I’ve put it in plural if one is lucky enough to live through the very first one); a stroke might be mild but still impairs you. Obesity, high cholesterol levels, diabetes type 2, arthritis, back pain, cancer. A plethora of things that are caused by food and stress. Genetics don’t play that big of a role as society would like us to think – it only accounts for about 5 to 10% of your overall health inclinations. But when you give up your ability to decide and just shrug thinking „I can’t fight with issues I inherited“, you basically just continue living the way you got used to, placing your fate below your taste buds and habits – turning you into a perfect victim for, well, mainstream consumerism. A voluntary victim. In addition to that, aren’t bad genetics, even if it actually had possessed a major influence on your life, precisely the reason why you should take your health into your own hands? Fight the DNA and let the bad genes starve? For example, women who inherit the BRCA gene for breast cancer should be especially mindful of what they put into their bodies, right? Sort of like putting that new-age proverb about the wolf you feed in the food and health context.

But, that’s not even what I wanted to say here. The crux of the matter is this: when you continue to eat animals, sentient individuals who are capable of a variety of emotions just like us, and who never want to be violently slaughtered, you deny yourself the opportunity to not only truly marvel at the longevity that our bodies can give us, but you also deny your loved ones of the thousands of hours you could have spent together. Enjoying a wonderful plant-based meal on a Sunday with your kids, grandkids and their kids, friends, neighbors, a kind stranger. A house full of love for decades which lights up magnificently on holidays. Teaching your granddaughter how to be harness her woman power in life. Giving your grandson a first lesson in cooking. Being there on their graduation days, basking in pride and love for your line continuing well beyond what you can imagine. The impact that they will have in the world, and you actually being there to see it, fully capable and vital in your body. Their first award speech when they mention you. Dancing on their wedding day. Feeling the affection, attention and care from them when your life starts to become slower and more contemplative. Entering your ninth or tenth decade with a smile and a birthday cake that your grand-grandkid just put his little hand on and snatched that candle from the top. You deny yourself your immortality.

For what is living if not leaving something of yourself vividly in the memories and life your loved ones create with you? You could go on and on as that wise grandparent who took the advice, went vegan, and lived to see the family for generations ahead. The one who stopped being a bystander and did everything you could to be there to support those who matter to you the most. For those who need you in their life. That is your responsibility. Isn’t it utterly absurd and downright immoral of you to deny them your experiences, your wisdom, care and love? Do you really want to die before you even set eyes on your first grandkid? Hell, for some, even your own kid? Or your sister’s kid? Your best friend’s child with those big soft eyes just begging you to tell them you love them the most? Doesn’t it hurt when your disease puts you in a hospital bed and, instead of love and joy, you give your loved ones grief and suffering? Simply by ingesting the grief and suffering of animals? Doesn’t that cycle have to end?

Your deny yourself your immortality. For the trees you plant, the leaves you give sunrays to, the flowers that bloom only in your presence are more important than what you eat now. You live forever through them. Your essence is never lost when you leave your family, your art, all your creations on this Earth after doing all that your spirit was intended to do, in its totality.
I urge you to give your life true meaning, and give yourself the gift of spiritual immortality. There are plenty of things we cannot control, but this is the one thing where we have all the power to improve the quality and quantity of our existence. Your spirit will thank you well into Beyond. As well as the thousands of animals on your plate now.

Your vegan friend always,
Ilhana

ATTENTION: NEW BLOG!

Hi, everyone! I felt inspired to write my thoughts on veganism in a new blog called „Vegan Vignettes“! I hope you will go on this journey with me and share my thoughts on the spiritual, mental and physical aspect of this ethical stance – the most important one for me and many people around the world. Even though veganism is first and foremost about respecting the fundamental rights of our fellow Earthlings, four elements and guidelines will determine the theme and subthemes of the posts: animals, planet/environment, health and humanitarian rights. So, in the future, the blog will be distinguished from other writing by the title, and you can also find it with relevant hashtags. The first post is already up. Happy reading!