Animal Rights and Vegan Advocacy
TOOLS AND RESOURCES

In response to: 
“Eating animal products is our tradition–it’s been a part of our culture and a way of living for hundreds of years.”

Article

Of all the objections to veganism and animal rights, perhaps this is the easiest to counter. The response need not be accompanied by research and citations  the application of reason combined with only the most general knowledge of history will suffice.

This objection is usually an impulsive reaction raised without forethought. Once the objection is answered, it is rare that the person objecting wishes to continue with the topic, as they quickly see their position as indefensible.

We are not justified in doing something just because we have been doing it.

Human history is abundant with examples of injustices that have been defended with an appeal to culture and tradition, including the subjugation of women, slavery, discrimination against gays, and female genital mutilation.

While culture and tradition may serve the useful purpose of providing stability and grounding to a group, they should not be used to blindly perpetuate injustices. We should not confuse culture and tradition with ethics. The fact that a practice is culturally acceptable does not mean it’s morally acceptable.

The length of time we have been engaging in a practice does not exonerate the practice.

An appeal to culture and tradition is often accompanied by an assertion that we have been engaging in a practice for hundreds or thousands of years. But if a practice is ethically problematic, then the longer the practice has been engaged in, the more harm it has caused. We can’t undo the past, but we can minimize our personal contribution to the problem now and in the future by going vegan.

The fact that a practice is a way of living is not pertinent.

That a practice has become a way of living makes it more difficult to dislodge, but if the practice is unethical, it does not diminish the need to dislodge it.

We have other cultural values that are consistent with the values of veganism.

The idea behind veganism is that we should not unnecessarily harm animals  a belief that almost everyone holds. That belief is a feature of our culture. The same is true with the values that belief embodies  fairness, justice, compassion, and nonviolence. The fact that we don’t always live up to those values does not mean we shouldn’t try to live up to them. Our values are strengthened every time someone goes vegan.

Outline

Talking Points OutlineKnowledge Base
  • Context
    • Of all the objections to veganism and animal rights, perhaps this is the easiest to counter. The response need not be accompanied by research and citations  the application of reason combined with only the most general knowledge of history will suffice.
    • This objection is usually an impulsive reaction raised without forethought. Once the objection is answered, it is rare that the person objecting wishes to continue with the topic, as they quickly see their position as indefensible.
    • Extra: Definitions from Merriam-Webster1“Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America’s Most-Trusted Online Dictionary.” Accessed December 10, 2018. https://www.merriam-webster.com/
      • Culture
        • “1a : the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group”
        • “1a : also : the characteristic features of everyday existence (such as diversions or a way of life) shared by people in a place or time”
      • Tradition
        • “1a : customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (such as a religious practice or a social custom)”
        • “1b : a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable”
        • “2 : the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction”
        • “3: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions”
  • We are not justified in doing something just because we have been doing it.
    • Human history is abundant with examples of injustices that have been defended with an appeal to culture and tradition, including the subjugation of women, slavery, discrimination against gays, and female genital mutilation.
    • While culture and tradition may serve the useful purpose of providing stability and grounding to a group, they should not be used to blindly perpetuate injustices. We should not confuse culture and tradition with ethics. The fact that a practice is culturally acceptable does not mean it’s morally acceptable.
  • The length of time we have been engaging in a practice does not exonerate the practice.
    • An appeal to culture and tradition is often accompanied by an assertion that we have been engaging in a practice for hundreds or thousands of years. But if a practice is ethically problematic, then the longer the practice has been engaged in, the more harm it has caused. We can’t undo the past, but we can minimize our personal contribution to the problem now and in the future by going vegan.
  • The fact that a practice is a way of living is not pertinent.
    • That a practice has become a way of living makes it more difficult to dislodge, but if the practice is unethical, it does not diminish the need to dislodge it.
  • We have other cultural values that are consistent with the values of veganism.
    • The idea behind veganism is that we should not unnecessarily harm animals  a belief that almost everyone holds. That belief is a feature of our culture. The same is true with the values that belief embodies  fairness, justice, compassion, and nonviolence. The fact that we don’t always live up to those values does not mean we shouldn’t try to live up to them. Our values are strengthened every time someone goes vegan.
  •  Meta
    • Contributors
      • Greg Fuller   Author
      • Isaac Nickerson   Copy Editor
    • Revisions
      • 2018-12-15 Initial post completed   glf
      • 2019-01-16 Copy editor’s first pass   isn

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Footnotes   [ + ]

1.“Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America’s Most-Trusted Online Dictionary.” Accessed December 10, 2018. https://www.merriam-webster.com/