On Ethical Responsibilities and Eating Meat

Note: I’m actually looking for your advice & input on this so please share your thoughts if you’re so inclined.
I’ve been turning the phrase, ‘You have a responsibility to become more ethical than the society that raised you’ over in my head recently, considering the implications and the ways I’m meeting (or failing to meet) this challenge. There are some ways I could live a touch more vulnerably, openly and honestly (which would provide just a stitch extra space/security for others to do likewise). There are definite opportunities for me to more fully engage in a practice of charity work with causes that are meaningful to me. There are ways I need to change my consumption habits. And, moving forward I can definitely do a better job of practicing my values publically and politically; even at the risk of disappointment when trying to engage with our janky-ass, democracy-curious, frustrating, brilliant, promising, and combative republigarchy. I have the chance to more fully reject my own immature desire for quick ‘simple’ fixes and learn to appreciate compromise, and developing working relationships, learn to treasure communication with people I can be so quick to dismiss and get better at loving the process, loving the work as opposed to being driven by ego and fixation on the results.
Those things though, I feel like I have a plan (if only a vague one)… clear next actions I need to take next when I carve out the time and energy. However, the ethics around the meat industry (and my complicity in it) are –for me- a little more ambivalent and I’m not entirely sure where to go from here.
At this point, I should point out that I am an enthusiastic consumer of animal flesh. I don’t see anything fundamentally wrong with killing a living creature and eating it. Ultimately, everything on this planet was born to die and be consumed-converted into something else (even me).
That said, the way in which meat is produced for me as a 21st century middle class American is an environmental and ethical catastrophe. The mass utilization of antibiotics on livestock threatens to undermine one of the fundamental medical pillars that supports out modern world (effective treatment of bacterial infection). Feedlot runoff is horrendous for any ecosystem it touches (which is to say, just about every ecosystem on the planet). The amount of land required for the raising and feeding of livestock hobbles biodiverse ecologies where it doesn’t destroy them outright. Also, and perhaps most importantly, factory farming represents mass torture of animals at an industrial scale. And this is just a few of my most immediate and pressing concerns… I could easily go on.
And yet, for all that I am unwilling to go vegan, vegetarian, or even pescatarian. Even so, this tension/problem is something I should do a better job engaging with. Here are some options:
  • Hunt More If I’m going to eat animal flesh, acquiring it by hunting (whether hunting of prey populations whose predators we’ve eliminated/suppressed or hunting of invasive species) is probably the most ethical way to go about it. Unfortunately, this requires space to safely store firearms and a deep freezer so isn’t something in the cards for me at the moment.
  • Eat Less This is probably the best options, and one I could create benchmarks around. More to the point, this would take looking into meatless cuisines that I find ‘satisfying’ in the way that I currently associate with meat heavy meals.
  • Make ‘Better’ Buying Choices In this season of my life, money is less of a concern than it’s ever been. There are certain farming practices that ameliorate some of my ethical concerns (usually at an uptick in price). Here though, I’m concerned about being misled by branding/buzzwords that make it *seem* like that harm has been reduced when it hasn’t or (more generally) I suspicious of ‘feel good’ buying since so often it feels like the pointless purchase of indulgences.
For my vegan/vegetarian friends do you have any tips and tricks on how to shift my meals so I miss meat less? For my omnivorous friends who are trying to make more ethical choices about meat, what do you look for when you buy?

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