In reply to: Eating animal products is our tradition; it has been a part of our culture and a way of living for hundreds of years
- 1 Context
- 2 Talking Points
- 2.1 We are not justified in doing something just because we have been doing it.
- 2.2 The length of time we have been engaging in a practice does not exonerate the practice.
- 2.3 The fact that a practice is a way of living is not pertinent.
- 2.4 We have other cultural values that are consistent with the values of veganism.
- 3 See Also
- 4 Footnotes
- 5 Meta
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.
This article was originally authored by Greg Fuller and copyedited by Isaac Nickerson. The contents may have been edited since that time by others.