Rachel and I have in the past made several efforts—mostly half-hearted—at eating responsibly, by shopping local, eating only conscientiously-raised meat and dairy, etc. But that's a fool's errand. It's expensive, for one. Peace of mind—at least the kind you're told you can buy—is mostly for the affluent, which we're not. $8 a pound for pork chops? That dog won't hunt. It always ended the same way: we'd observe that we couldn't afford a conscience, and kind of let it go for a while. But that was never good enough.
My line of work does little harm, in virtue of not doing much of anything. When you do philosophy, you can (absent some special circumstance) rest assured that you're not making anyone's life worse. I took solace in knowing that, apart from the evil in which I was complicit as a late-capitalist consumer, I wasn't making things worse. That's no equilibrium: I needed a way to reduce my consumption complicity. Vegan seems a good way to do that.
It'll be a while before my apprenticeship ends. My thinking has to change in many ways, great and small, and so do my appetites, which takes more time. My friend R., a vegan for many years whom I admire greatly, told me she considers Vegan a road to walk, rather than an elimination checklist. I like this; it makes it seem less like we're on a diet and more like we're aiming in some meaningful way at making things better, if only by omission.
We're not vegan yet; I hate wasting food, and there's some cheese and butter in our fridge. So the animal consumption continues (at least for the moment), but the animal purchase has stopped. Going forward, we no longer participate in the meat and dairy industry.
Still not sure how I feel about fish. It was always going to be the hardest food group for me to give up, and the horror stories you hear largely leave fish out (though the fishing and farm-raising industry is an environmental catastrophe). Perhaps I'll deny myself the full label and keep enjoying the fruits of the sea. We can save that for later.
Felt a concrete cost of changing today: no more lattes, apparently. "But there's soy milk," one might say. Yes, you can combine coffee with soy juice (it's no more a "milk" than what drips from a squeezed orange), but it amplifies the coffee's native bitterness (which the milk is supposed to soothe) and chai tea fares no better: the flavor is pinched and false and unpleasant. So substitution yields to replacement. It won't be the last time, of course.