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 way....it is usually stated in such a way to imply that...oh well...it 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:
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:
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 sorry...no 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.