With the second year of me being in France firmly establishing itself in the vestibules of my mind and everyday life (it‘s been almost six months since the anniversary), the thought of a review of this emerging identity firmly established itself, as well. The dust has settled, the horizon is foggy but promising. Who am I in all this, though, now, after a while? After the proud, antagonizing presence mellowed into a kind of uncertainty?
A lot of it has to do with disappointment. Or, better put, a kind of realization: no matter what Bosnians do and are, the basic ethical principle of „do no harm“ that is fundamental to veganism and my personal view of purpose in the world is not organic to them. To us. Just like any other nation in the world, Bosnians and Herzegovinians by and large are necrovores and think it‘s okay to oppress animals. That is a stance I cannot get behind.
So, what exactly is our nationality when faced with oppression? Does it even matter? I‘d love to be able to say that my nation is enlightened and non-oppressive, but the reality is that, in regards to animals, we are no different than anyone else on the planet (exceptions nothwithstanding). The animals are still being bred into miserable and short existence, exploited, tortured, mutilated, raped and murdered for pleasure, be it taste, entertainment, clothing… That is, sadly, true for Bosnia as much as its neighboring countries, as much as the US, the UK… or France, for that matter.
One injustice does not negate another. It is also true that Bosnia and Herzegovina has been through the worst atrocities in Europe since WWII, that the Serb military forces, along with Croat military forces, performed ethnic cleansing and systematic genocide during the aggression in the 1990s, and it is true that the country and its residents are still going through a systematic negation of the cleansing and genocide by ultranationalists inside who want to tear it apart. That is a truth I will always speak loudly.
However, blindly defending everything we do and produce is not part of patriotism. For example, I will never champion a cheese company from Bosnia and Herzegovina, because that „success“ is built upon grieving mothers and their dead children. Cheese comes from milk, and milk comes from mothers – exploited mothers whose milk is stolen by humans.
In that light, patriotism can never justify an injustice. And, that is why, next to locals, there are numerous animal rights activists here who hail from different countries, different nationalities, different religions, who have all clearly seen what happens behind the doors of slaughterhouses and milk factories, regardless of where they are. Whether it is France or Bosnia and Herzegovina, we are united in one goal: the liberation of all non-human animals.
In the end, I realized that there is a way to be both: a Bosnian and an animal rights activist. After all, I was both back in my homeland, and I can be both here. Issues and uncertainties regarding what it means to defend the truth about my country here will arise in the future, I‘m sure, but my settlement so far has clearly shown me how I want to spend most of my free time: defending the most innocent beings on the planet – animals. That is one of my reasons for existence, my purpose.
I will say one more thing to my Bosnians and Herzegovinians, as well as all the people, everywhere in the world: without changing our fundamental view of non-human animals, we will collectively never be able to rise above doing harm to other, human animals. As Tolstoy has rightfully remarked: „How can we hope that peace and prosperity will reign on Earth, if our bodies are living tombs, in which murdered animals are buried?“
„As long as there are slaughterhouses there will be battlefields.“
/visual impressions from the most recent action of animal rights activists in Lyon, France, against the consumption and glorification of meat aka dead animal parts in one of Lyon’s most famous meat restaurants, April 1, 2023 – photos by Nath One Voice/