Eating 90% less meat than the average American and reallocating the money I would have spent on factory-farmed meat to buy much smaller portions of ethically and sustainably raised animal products seems like a worthy and attainable goal. Yes, meat production is environmentally expensive. So is iPod production, yet many vegans own iPods. Unless you want to argue that we should all be maximally ascetic in every aspect of life, it seems unfair to single out the occasional grass-fed steak as an unacceptable extravagance. What matters is your total footprint. If you really want a steak, or an iPod, find somewhere else to cut back.
I agree with Lindsay, and not just because she generously gave me my first couple links as a hatchling blogger that resulted in my first couple hundred visitors all those years ago. I’ve been vegan before, and I still consume a lot less animal products overall, including dairy and leather, than almost anyone else, but I just can’t get into the metaphysical belief in an end to all suffering for all beings. I remember reading vegan zines back in the day and shaking my head at the zeal with which some of them would attempt to eliminate all personal connection to suffering, down to the tiniest molecule. Of course, taking the imperative to do no harm that seriously almost leads inexorably to the logical necessity of suicide, and even your remains will feed the insects or the scavengers, who will in turn be devoured by the occupants in the next link of the chain, and on and on the cycle goes. You can’t surgically remove your own ego – an illusion, at any rate – from the entire process. The Buddha was right: life is suffering. And we are all life, every one of us together. There is no escape from it. Even if humans, all six or seven billion of us and counting, became totally committed to never harming another animal unnecessarily, they do it to each other and will continue to do so long after our likely self-destruction, assuming a meteor doesn’t do us in first.
Minimize suffering as much as you can. But don’t get caught up in believing that it can ever disappear entirely. Life is a sexually transmitted disease that’s 100% fatal. Don’t take it too seriously.