Abstract

I argue that cultural practices that harm animals are not morally defensible: Tradition cannot justify cruelty. My conclusion applies to all such practices, including ones that are long-standing, firmly entrenched, or held sacred by their practitioners. Following Mary Midgley, I argue that cultural practices are open to moral scrutiny, even from outsiders. Because animals have moral status, they may not be harmed without good reason. I argue that the importance of religious or cultural rituals to adherents does not count as a sufficiently good reason to harm or kill animals, since rituals are inherently symbolic, and cultures are able to adapt and change, making adherence to cruel traditions unnecessary.

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