I have been a vegetarian for ten years, though I started eating fish about 4 years ago, so I'm not as strict as I once was. Yet it's taken me ten years to become aware of a logical gap in vegetarianism, which I would like to share with you now and get your reactions to. If you eat dairy, as I do and as do most vegetarians I know, you are depending on food from female animals, usually cows and chickens for milk and eggs. Yet for every female cow and chicken born, a male is born too, and let me tell you that the breeders are not just releasing these guys into the wild. These male animals are sold for meat, along with male and female animals that were bred specifically for the meat industry. A PETA film makes this point very cleanly by showing footage of the horrible conditions that veal cows are raised in, with a voiceover (by Alec Baldwin) telling us that these baby cows are the offspring of dairy cows, and if you drink milk, you are supporting the veal industry. Furthermore, laying hens are typically sold for poultry when they stop producing eggs.
This makes me wonder that if I'm not ready to convert to veganism (which I'm not), it might actually be a better bet to support humanely raised meat than to boycott meat altogether. If my dairy consumption directly causes the slaughter of animals, perhaps it's better to create a market for humane and environmentally friendly meat than to pretend the problem doesn't exist.
I'm not about to make any changes at the moment, but I do think this is an interesting question, though you may think it's a load of bull, so let me know. I also had the happy chance to eat a meal at Chez Panisse yesterday and get a tour of the premises, which is a really interesting lesson in thinking about ingredients as the backbone of every meal we eat and understanding the interconnectedness of those ingredients.