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 whey the two can not be used together that way.
From Google’s Dictionary:
re·spect 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:
tol·er·ate 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 at least it is honest.
I do not respect someone’s decision to enslave, assault and kill others when they have other options. But unfortunately, in this world I still have to tolerate it more often than not.