Shouldn’t vegans respect the cultural traditions of non-vegans?

Isn’t standing up for justice more important than standing up for cultural traditions?

Many times, when the topic of veganism or even plant-based diets comes up, even if it’s in the context of mitigating climate change or improving human health or feeding hungry people, otherwise progressive people object, “But we need to be mindful of people’s cultural traditions!”

Progressives, it seems, want other progressives to respect cultural traditions – but only if they match with the cultural traditions that are familiar to them.

For example, what if your South Korean neighbors were raising puppies in their yard, slaughtering them, and barbecuing them, a practice that is perfectly legal in most U.S. states? Would you join them for dinner? Would you respect their cultural tradition?

What if your Ethiopian neighbors were arranging the marriage of their 12-year old daughter to a 40-year-old man, a practice that is not illegal in many states? Would you respect their cultural tradition? What if you discovered that the child had undergone female genital mutilation, a practice only recently outlawed in the United States, but which is still sometimes done in secret? Is that a cultural tradition you can respect?

What if your Lebanese neighbor confided to you that she was pressured into marrying her rapist to preserve her honor and so that her rapist wouldn’t be charged with a crime? Is that a cultural tradition you respect?

What if the President of the United States tweeted, “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.”? (Oh, wait, that actually happened, on August 17, 2017.) Do you agree that confederate monuments are a cultural tradition that should be preserved?

Some cultural traditions may seem odd at first, but they may be so beneficial, they actually spread to other cultures. For example, many cultures in Asia, Africa, and Europe have traditionally removed their street shoes before entering their homes, and expect their guests to do the same. This tradition is actually spreading to the United States, because people realize that it keeps their floors cleaner.

But if a cultural tradition has a victim, maybe it is not worthy of our respect. Maybe we should stop worrying about political correctness and start supporting the victims. Maybe we should stop venerating harmful, antiquated, and downright oppressive cultural traditions.


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