I usually don't do heavy reading before bed, but these last few nights I've been reading "Dominion". Right now I'm only in the second or third chapter, but this guy makes lots of sense. He's not out to convert us all to vegetarianism or put chickens up in satin-lined coops. He just says that we owe it to all animals to cause them as little pain and suffering as possible.
First of all, he points out one of my big problems with the PETA-everyone-should-go-vegan-crowd, and that is--if there was no financial incentive to raise meat, the animals now farmed for meat would not exist.
(Wait a sec! You mean, farmers can't just afford to keep feeding domesticated animals indefinitely with no potential for eventually making money to feed their families? Well, maybe we should just release them all into the wild. What? You mean there aren't wide expanses of wild space left to release them to? You mean animals that have been domesticated for hundreds of years aren't going to do so well fending for themselves and would probably die horribly of starvation? Well, goodness, that's a problem now, isn't it?)
Secondly, I think it's interesting that he argues it all from a very Christian framework. He points out the fact that many people read the verse that says man was given dominion over animals and think that's the end of the thought. Yes, man was given dominion over animals, but we still need to remember that they're a gift from God and we need to treat them accordingly--with dignity and respect.
He also discusses how many people say that, because animals don't rationalize, we don't have to be considerate of their feelings. He points out that, even if they don't know what they are or what their place in the universe is in the way that humans do, they still have the present ability to feel. They may not know what their suffering means, but they know that they are afraid or in pain in "the now".
It's all a bit hard to read, but the struggle has been worthwhile.