Q. It is said that animals should not be allowed in the temple. Do they not have souls? By going in the temple will they not get the blessings of Krishna? What really makes us different from them? How come we don't stop meat-eaters from coming into the temple? They too are considered to be like animals. I think this philosophy is wrong. On the one hand we say that one should not kill animals because we are all the same, everyone has a soul. But on the other hand the animals are not allowed to come into God's house. It is difficult to understand that we should treat them with respect and we should not harm or kill any living creatures, however animals are not allowed into the temple. Please explain.
On the spiritual platform, yes, we are all equal as spirit souls. But on the material platform, there ARE differences between animals and human beings, and even among human beings, and that should not be ignored. A devotee may treat different living entities differently, but appropriate treatement to the embodiment of a particular soul is not biased when based on the realization of the spiritual equality of the soul. In order to best serve everyone, there is a necessity to make such discernment. But there is a difference between such intelligent discernment of what is what, and biased actions. A self-realized soul sees a cow, a tiger or a brahmana as equal, but his treatment of the three would be different.
In Krsna consciousness there is unity in diversity.
The prohibition in allowing animals in the temple is because animals are generally unclean. Ideally, by strict Vedic standards, one should not enter the temple without completely purifying oneself internally and externally. There are many other standards found in the scriptures meant to maintain the purity of a place of worship, as well. Here is a more fundamental difference in the nature between animals and human beings: humans have the capacity to inquire into and understand the nature of self and God but animals can't. Thus they cannot achieve the same benefit a human can, just by coming into the temple area.
For Kali Yuga we often find that there are concessions in the standards for allowing people in a temple even if they may not be already following prescribed standards. In Kali yuga most of us are untrained and greatly unqualified, but by giving people in general a chance to come to the temple, they will be given the chance to become elevated in consciousness; then they will be able to follow the proper standards.
There are other ways that souls in animal bodies can be benefited, such as by giving them Krishna prasadam, and where appropriate engaging them in Krishna's service (offering cow's milk, engaging bulls in plowing fields for Krishna etc). There is no question of disrespect to animals, but they are respected appropriately; Lord Krishna Himself taught us how to worship the cow with great respect, although they were not brought inside the living quarters or Deity rooms, even in Krishna's pastimes.