Sunday, February 26, 2012


I am reproducing here (complete) a post written by Chris Poupart over on his blog Adventures of of a dad/vegan/anarchist. He writes very well about something I suspect many vegan folk encounter.

Sometimes I am asked to "respect" another's decision to cause harm because they "respect" my decision to not harm...actually it isn't stated that is usually stated in such a way to imply that...oh is just a difference of opinion. Well, not quite. Someone wanting their decision to harm others to be "respected" is a bit much for me....Mr. Poupart does a good job of explicating and elaborating about the intricacies of the language involved in this. (Mr. Poupart graciously gave his permission for this to be reproduced here).

As a vegan, I am often told that I should "respect [someone's] decision to eat animals". This can get problematic, because that is the antithesis of veganism as an ideal. I will elaborate, but first, lets look at what the word "respect" really means, because I think that often it is misused in this context. If the person truly understood what veganism was, and had a full understanding of the meaning of respect, then they might get why the two can not be used together that way.
From Google's Dictionary:
verb /riˈspekt/
respected, past participle; respected, past tense; respecting, present participle; respects, 3rd person singular present
Admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements
she was respected by everyone she worked with
a respected academic
Have due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of
I respected his views
Avoid harming or interfering with
it is incumbent upon all boaters to respect the environment
Agree to recognize and abide by (a legal requirement)
he urged all foreign nationals to respect the laws of their country of residence

As you can see, it is likely that when people use "respect" in the context that I first provided that they are using it to mean 2, 3 or 4. But what they are failing to consider is that it also comes with the connotation of admiration, and that is where it gets problematic with regards to something that vegans obviously consider as wrong. After all, if we didn't think that using animals was wrong, we wouldn't have stopped doing it. Even if someone has a legal right to continue doing something traditional, if it is immoral and you believe that it is immoral, you can never respect it.
A better word for these situations, situations where you simply have to put aside your dislike of the other persons actions or beliefs, would be tolerance.
Google describes "tolerate" as such:
verb /ˈtäləˌrāt/
tolerated, past participle; tolerated, past tense; tolerates, 3rd person singular present; tolerating, present participle
Allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference
a regime unwilling to tolerate dissent
Accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance
how was it that she could tolerate such noise?
Be capable of continued subjection to (a drug, toxin, or environmental condition) without adverse reaction
lichens grow in conditions that no other plants tolerate

Tolerance may not have the same warm and fuzzy connotations that respect does, but it is at least honest.
I do not respect someone's decision to enslave, assault and kill others. But unfortunately, in this world I still have to tolerate it more often than not.

Excellently said...right now I may have to tolerate the exploiting, enslaving and murdering of my fellow animals...but respect for such repugnant and despicable activities is available from me. In truth, I am astonished anyone would even believe respect for such horror is possible.

I can respect the personhood of another being without respecting their viewpoints and/or their behavior...if someone isn't living as an ethical vegan then I am in a position not of respecting their harmful behaviors but rather of having, at least for now, to tolerate such. I may respect and admire many qualities they have...but no way do I respect their behavior toward the animals they harm or cause to be harmed. Unfortunately and sadly and tragically for those on whom the suffering and misery is inflicted.


Molly said...

Wonderfully said! I couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely!!! Tolerate, concede to, but not Respect. One of my friends always says, "I'm easy; I eat anything"--as if it's a marker of her laid-back friendliness. It makes me insane inside, esp. because it implies that yours truly is "difficult" and unfriendly .... when in reality she is unethical in her voraciousness.
Ugh. So, I tolerate it. But I have no respect for it.

Love this post.

Respect, by the way, is the word that Jamaicans use to greet each other :)

Have Gone Vegan said...

Well put. By both of you! I often get that line too, "I respect your decision, so you have to respect mine." Um, no.

I like what Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says about this in Vegan's Daily Companion: "The problem with this justification is that it assumes there is no victim, no other. It implies that the meat-eater's desires, traditions, culture, taste buds, or appetite are superior to anything--or anyone--else and that because of this, he or she is absolved from the harm eating meat causes, particularly to the one being eaten." p74.

Exactly. The two choices are not equal. One leads to cruelty, torture and death, and the other does not.

veganelder said...

Thank you Molly and DEM for your comments.

Molly: He nailed it pretty well didn't he.

DEM: I was unaware of the Jamacaican greeting, interesting.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting HGV. I started to go into the obvious difference between 'respecting' a held notion and concomitant behavior that involved no one else vs one that involved another but figured I had rambled on enough. A "thought crime" is not the same as a physically enacted crime...thank goodness.

Have Gone Vegan said...

Thank goodness indeed. I'd have been put away ages ago, snort.

veganelder said...

Thank you for comment 2, HGV.

Lots of us would've. :-)

Annie said...

Yes! Exactly! I've struggled with exact thing! I can think of a lot of words I'd like to use...and respect ain't one of them!

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Annie. Precisely!

Vegan Rabbit said...

I loved this! And it is so true: it is easy to respect someone who DOESN'T cause another creature harm, but it is most definitely NOT easy to respect someone who DOES.

This post reminded me of my Pot vs. Kettle post (the part about vegans being called "disrespectful" when calling non-vegans out). I suppose tolerance is a fact of life at this point, but it should not be one sided. We are not the only ones who should be tolerant. Non-vegans must be tolerant of our views as well. Respect must be reciprocated. I find it very hard to respect a person who, after learning of my veganism, makes a concerted effort to let me know how delicious their meat-lovers pizza was and how concerned they are about my health and assumed anemia and protein deficiency, and so forth. However, in order to avoid stooping to their level I have learned that I must take the high ground and be tolerant... for now. I'm confident that there will come a time when we vegans are not such a small minority. Maybe then the issue won't be tolerance of veganism, but acceptance.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Vegan Rabbit. You seem to know some folks that are very knowledgeable about nutrition...are they certified in that area? :-)

Bea Elliott said...

Veganelder - You keep writing new posts that become my favorite of all! This is certainly one - yet again!

"I do not respect someone's decision to enslave, assault and kill others. But unfortunately, in this world I still have to tolerate it more often than not."

No doubt that will seem dis"respectful" as an answer to many - But oh well! They must tolerate that answer too!

And now... Any suggestions on how to thrive in a word made up of the intolerable? (sigh) :(

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Bea.

Chris Poupart is the author of: "I do not respect someone's decision to enslave, assault and kill others. But unfortunately, in this world I still have to tolerate it more often than not."

I'm with you, it's a couple excellent sentences.

Hmmm, how to thrive? A toughie...maybe thrive is too much...I'm not sure I want to be able to thrive where so much absolutely unnecessary exploitation and suffering and death so gratuitously occurs. Doing a bit to reduce the horror quotient and getting by is enough for me right now. Let me know about the thrive if you come across such. :-)

Vegan Rabbit said...

I've actually done a lot of studying in nutrition -- it's kind of a hobby of mine. I also used to apprentice under my father who is a master at six different martial arts and who is also a personal trainer with his own studio. I picked up a few things here and there (and have also gotten him to go vegan, which he is loving, by the way). I've also been thinking of pursuing a degree in nutrition when I have the funds, as it interests me quite a bit.

veganelder said...

Thank you for commenting Vegan Rabbit. Martial artist and nutritionist sounds like a rather potent combination. :-)