From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2000:
“Culture,” says the National Geographic Desk Reference, “provides the identity that links members of one society together and can also divide those members from other cultures.” In other words, culture is the learned behavior that separates the sheep from the goats, and also determines in which order the sheep and goats march. Culture could be defined as a collective term for the variety of social, economic, and political methods that humans use to form and maintain what we would recognize in other species as a dominance hierarchy.
Culturally entrenched cruelties resist abolition because the evolution of culture itself is often driven by the motives underlying the cruelty, so much so that the whole cultural selfidentification of some societies becomes preoccupied with establishing who may abuse whom. The more basic the society, meaning the most absorbed in constant struggle for both personal and collective survival, the more likely it is to be organized around “might makes right,” like a tribe of chimpanzees––and the more likely the culture of the society will consist chiefly of activities meant to remind members of their rank. The hazing practiced by social clubs and athletic teams serves such a purpose, for example, and is seldom far removed from cruelty because it is central to a culture whose whole purpose is defining the dominance of the incrowd or the winners, and excluding others from the exhalted inner circle.