This weekend, families across the country and around the world will celebrate Easter with leg of lamb dinners and egg hunts. The tradition of eating lamb at Easter has old testament roots, and was part of Jewish Passover observances before the birth of Christianity. Similarly, eggs have been a symbol of rebirth and new life since ancient times, but it was Mesopotamian Christians who first adopted them as an Easter food.
Read more about Easter traditions in these two articles: https://www.history.com/news/easter-foods-from-lamb-to-eggs )
While eating lamb and eggs at Easter reaches back to antiquity we should not in this, or in any other case, accept tradition blindly. While traditions are well and good – they give us a sense of comfort, pride and belonging – they must always be revised and adapted in light of an ever-changing society. If a particular tradition is cruel or harmful to sentient beings (as in many that involve other animals) then it is immoral to continue with it, and it should be stopped. As celebrated Animal Rights Activist Maneka Gandhi wrote in the article ‘Tradition is no excuse for Cruelty’, about a barbaric Indian rite of passage ritual (Ukweshwama) where a group of youths torment and slaughter a terrified bull with their bare hands:
“While I respect culture, this bull-killing ritual causes extreme suffering to an innocent creature and has no place in the modern world. Tradition is not an excuse for cruelty, and many societies have ended or are working to end ‘traditional’ practices—such as slavery, cannibalism, infanticide, female circumcision, foot-binding, bullfighting, and fox hunting—that cause animals or humans to suffer”.
Is it acceptable now to eat the flesh of baby animals to commemorate the birth and death of Christ, himself called The Lamb of God because he submitted meekly to his persecutors ‘like a lamb led to the slaughter’.? Isaiah 53:7:
Is it acceptable now to eat the eggs of mother hens who are confined to tiny cages on factory farms for their entire wretched lives? Even free range eggs involve cruelty such as killing one day old roosters by shredding or suffocation. I think the answer is clear. The tradition of eating chocolate eggs can stay, but the practise of consuming eggs that involve extreme cruelty to sentient beings has no place in a progressive, compassionate society.
This Easter I hope you will remember the gentle lamb and the mother hen. If you still eat them, it will be an opportunity for you to reflect on the cruelty involved getting them to your plate, and to begin your transition to a harmless diet.