I believe in a clear hierarchy of sentience with us at the top followed by mammals, general vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and then bacteria, and I do my best to keep the suffering I cause for the sake of my own survival as low on that hierarchy as possible, as self-awareness and feelings of pain and terror decrease. What I care about is reducing suffering. Where *you* fall on that hierarchy is not arbitrary if further reducing suffering over time is always your priority.
Should I eat the baboon or should I starve to death? Eat the baboon.
Should I eat the baboon or eat the rat? Eat the rat.
Should I eat the lamb or eat the chicken? Eat the lamb, because lambs have to graze outside before they’re slaughtered and its very unlikely that chicken ever saw daylight.
Should I have the lamb sandwich or the tuna sandwich? Eat the tuna sandwich.
Should I buy the tuna spread or the cheese spread? Buy the cheese spread.
Should I drink cow’s milk or almond milk? Drink the almond milk.
Should I buy the almond milk, which uses up gallons of water to produce, or the milk of my next door neighbour’s pet cow Georgie who I see chilling out in her field and say hello to every day? Drink Georgie’s milk.
Should I buy free range eggs or take the battery hen eggs that I’ve just seen dumped out the back of a supermarket and will otherwise go to waste? Take the battery hen eggs.
Should I make any of these greater ethical choices and feel bad in myself which may in the long-term result in me ultimately abandoning all of my principles about the value of non-human life and just eat factory farmed pork and battery hen eggs because I can’t cope with the guilt so best not to care or think about any of it, or make the lesser ethical choice? Make the lesser ethical choice.
You can argue that any of these choices generate more or less suffering, but if you’re arguing that as a serious precursor to making a purchasing decision, you’ve stepped into the realm of giving a stuff about life other than your own species and creatures that look and behave a bit like your species, and whatever choices you make, they’ll result in less suffering that you would have caused before.