When I decided to stop eating animals for ethical reasons five years ago, I wanted to make sure I could stick with it. Following a path where, I thought, each step brought me closer to the most moral diet, I became a pescetarian first, swapping chicken quesadillas and beef burgers for salmon poke bowls. This went on for a year before I adopted a fully vegetarian diet.
Pescetarianism — the practice of eschewing red meat and poultry but still eating seafood — is often recommended to people who want to make better food choices, but don’t want to go vegan or vegetarian. Fishing typically has a smaller carbon footprint than factory farming, fish are often seen as less worthy of compassion than land animals, and, while wild-caught fish lives are cut short, at least they don’t spend their entire existence in cages so small they can’t turn around, like some factory-farmed animals. Many people ease into thinking and acting more critically about what (or who) they’re eating this way, which is something we should laud in a society that eats billions of animals raised in terrible conditions without giving it much thought.
Nearly a quarter of Americans report that they’re trying to eat less meat, motivated more by concern for the environment than for animal welfare. This matches my experience: saying that you’ve stopped eating animals because of concern for the animals themselves tends to provoke more hurt feelings and tense conversations than citing health or environmental reasons. And switching from an omnivorous diet to a pescetarian one is likely to reduce your climate impact because on average, seafood production releases less carbon per pound of meat than raising land animals (though there is huge variance depending on the species).