You know what?
I've always respected vegetarians and certain strains of vegan - at least those with realistic justifications for their choice of diet. You know, the ones who don't get pretentious and preachy, but those who don't feel consuming or exploiting our fellow animals is right for their individual experience of life. I really appreciate the beauty in that. I do. I've long been tempted to try myself due to the unique and rich experiences I've had with so many other living beings - some of those closest to me on this planet have not been human.
I've seen depth in the minds of animals typically considered "stupid" - I've seen cats and dogs smile and cry, fear and pain in the eyes of smaller friends we often take for granted, and seen bonds closer than soul mates between man and animals of all kinds. They have truly, at least for me, often filled the metaphorical heart with warmth often deeper than human family.
The assertion by some theists that "animals" (do note I fully consider us part of that group) don't have souls is one of those things that sickens me inside. I do not take much stock in the concept of an external metaphysical self, but I am certainly open to the idea and adore the concept of a universal web of life - where all living things from bacteria to dolphins have an essence of life not dependent on standards of mammalian intelligence. I do not understand how one can have a loved dog in their lives and still say such wonderful personalities lack what they'd call a soul.
There's just one major thing that keeps me from choking down tofu burgers and eating what would probably end up being a diet of dairy, fruit, and expensive and numerous bottles of vitamin pills.
I absolutely adore meat. It's my favorite food group right next to dairy - I like fish, seafood, chicken, pork, beef. I would fight someone for a good steak or a plate of crab legs - seriously, all kinds of back up if you don't want a fork in your thigh. Simply stated, I fully accept my position as an omnivore with a carnivorous inclination. I accept that the circle of life - mother nature, biology, what have you - probably knows what it's doing and it's been working well for the planet so far. It looks that way from what I know anyways - how the Hell do I figure out if I'm supposed to behave like some kind of being separated from the wild nature of this planet? Screw that kind of guess work. We also can't deny that exploiting others was often the only thing that kept our kind surviving in the distant past.
It's also unfortunate that some studies have been done to suggest that plants also feel pain and a follower of Jainism (people whom I greatly respect) would have a thing or two to say. There is honestly no winning in this kind of subject - all you can do is realize that we all have different relationships with the planet we live on and leave it at that.