I recently got back from a trip to the Balkans. The region is a diverse one, both visually (beautiful beaches, breathtaking mountains, rolling hills), and culturally. Most tourists are rightfully impressed by what is one of Europe’s most interesting areas. There is also a much more negative word associated with the region, - violence. The Balkans have seen major wars and genocides as recently as 20 years ago. Even now, there is still a lot of tension (and hatred) between ethnic groups, and one can’t help but fear that another conflict could happen at some point in the future. I’ve always believed that violence begets violence. Eliminating violence and showing compassion will help us to create a more harmonious society. Not showing compassion and engaging in violent behavior will lead to a more cruel, less harmonious society. The way we treat animals also falls under this rule. An uncaring/violent treatment of animals will result in a society that is uncaring/violent. There are two measuring sticks for this treatment. The first is how we treat our homeless animals (usually dogs and cats), and the second is how many people have progressed to vegetarianism or veganism in a given society. Not surprisingly, most countries in the Balkans would receive a low grade on both accounts.
I don’t want this to sound like I’m saying that all the people in the Balkans hate and/or abuse animals. There are plenty of people I’ve personally met there who truly love animals, and many who love them so much that (like me) they no longer eat them. Still, there is a lot to be done in that region to minimize animal suffering, more so than in many other places I’ve visited. Ultimately, how we treat other animals is a good measuring stick of how advanced we are as a society. The first step to a more civilized, compassionate society is to take care of our homeless animals; to lower their numbers in a humane way, and to implement a strategy to prevent the problem from resurfacing in the future. The next step in the evolutionary process is to come to the realization that, ultimately, we don’t need meat to survive. This is harder for most people, but it is a step that we should consider taking, one that we should be strong enough to take, both for our own benefit, and for the benefit of the animals with whom we share the planet.