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Palaeontology As A Vessel For Non-Veganism

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It seems that more and more people these days are searching high and low for new and bizarre justifications to continue consuming animal products. We all know the classic “lions eat other animals” line, but now it seems that scientists are trying to take that line of thought even further.

Welcome to the age of paleontological justification, where consuming animals is portrayed as necessary because to not consume animals would be to deny a palaeontologist access to our past. Indeed, an article in the Smithsonian puts forward the case that were it not for our ancestors stepping out of the shadow of predators and joining their ranks with the use of stone weaponry, we wouldn’t have the fossilised remains of animals that we have today.

While it may be true that “meat-eating animals have helped make the fossil record [that palaeontologists] now study,” such an argument is utterly irrelevant when considering the morality of animal use and the treatment of animals as chattel property. Brian Switek, author of the Smithsonian piece, isn’t explicitly using this argument as a means to promote non-veganism. He is, however, normalising the idea that what we have or haven’t done in the past is somehow relevant to what our moral obligations are today. His argument grants a faux-legitimacy to the positions of those who maintain that animal exploitation is acceptable on the grounds of tradition.

As we know, if animal exploitation can be justified by tradition, then so can any other fundamental rights violation involving humans. Racism, sexism, homophobia – it’s all fair game if tradition is a valid argument. 

It’s high time we left these flimsy objections behind us and accept that the past is no place to look for moral guidance. The history of human kind is nothing but a history of violence – towards both non-humans and other humans. So I’m sorry, palaeontologists, but your interest in studying bones does not outweigh the fundamental interests of animals here and now who are being exploited for unnecessary and unjustifiable purposes.

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