Thank you, everyone who commented.
My guru has spent decades sifting wheat from chaff in spiritual teachings and scriptures. It is his opinion that there is a hierarchy of consciousness, and that while all life is precious, self-aware human life is very precious.
As I held the dying bird, I could feel some of what he must know; this living, breathing creature shares a measure of Everlasting Spirit. It's not wrong to take this life, but it is wrong to do so in a way that demeans all life or corrupts human consciousness. Eating meat should be an intentional choice and an act of reverence, even more than our thankfulness for the bounty of plants God has provided.