So I have been a vegetarian on and off for a number of years, and this question keeps bothering me: what counts as something that is "okay" to eat, and what doesn't?
First, let me explain why I am a vegetarian. One reason is that I feel that the environmental impact of eating meat is way to high to justify the practice. But another reason is that I feel that animals have souls, and killing an animal is as bad as killing a fellow human being. Now before you atheists all jump on me, let me say that I am not a follower of any institutionlized religion, I simply have my own set of spiritual beliefs. I believe that all people have souls, as do animals. I mean, who could look into a dog's eyes and say that whatever we have that makes us who we are, dogs don't also have?
But where does it stop? Do cows have souls? Rabbits? How about lizards? How about frogs? How about fish?
Most vegans would say that all of the above types of critters have souls, or whatever you want to call it. But where does it stop? If fish can have them, do lobsters have them? How about cockroaches? How about fleas? Lice? Dust mites?
Take the sea anemone. It is, technically, an animal. Does it have a soul? If it does, then it isn't much of a stretch to say that a plant does, since both are immobile, with no sensory perception and no nervous center or identifiable brian. When I eat a salad, am I consuming what was once a living, feeling head of cabbage?
How about bacteria? They are living beings. Am I commiting a holocaust every time I get over a cold? Hell, if bacteria have souls, I'm a murderer every time I inhale.
Where do you draw the line? Every time I have tried, it ends up sounding stupid. "Well, maybe only things with verterbae (mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and fish) have souls". Doesn't it seem superficial to base spirituality on anatomy? Plus, there's always some exception to a defintion. For example, in the verterbrae definition, the exception would be the octopus, which has proven to be extremely intelligent, even more so than many dogs. Other people base it on if the critter's brain has pain receptors. I think this sounds kind of dumb too.
Can anyone really define what, spiritually speaking, counts as another living being? Because I can't.