Monday, October 27, 2014

Plants Have Feelings, Too

Some people, through what appears to be an excess of sensitivity, refuse to eat animal products. They envision the pain and suffering of our animal cousins and refuse, on moral grounds, to participate.

So well developed is their capacity for empathy that they apply it to all members of the animal kingdom.

By their reasoning, animals should have rights too. What makes us believe that we humans comprise a superior class of animals… just because we have the capacity to speak and to reason?

For those who are afraid of hurting any animal, to the point where they refuse to swat flies, lest they think of themselves as serial killers, science has now discovered that plants have feelings too.

Here’s the story from Modern Farmer:

Eating a leaf off a plant may not kill it, but that doesn't mean the plant likes it. The newest study to examine the intelligence (or at least behavior) of plants finds that plants can tell when they're being eaten -- and send out defenses to stop it from happening.

We’ve been hearing for decades about the complex intelligence of plants; last year’s excellent New Yorker piece is a good place to start, if you want to learn more about the subject. But a new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri, managed to figure out one new important element: plants can tell when they’re being eaten, and they don’t like it.

Keep this in mind the next time you chomp on that spinach leaf.

How dare you disrespect the plant’s feelings!

Time to do some serious penance for participating in the Holocaust that we call the salad bar.


Dennis said...

Here is the study I have alluded to when vegetarians get to wrapped up in the fact that animals are sentient and should not be eaten.
It would seem that if they use something's ability to be sentient they would then have to apply it to the plants they consume for plants show an amazing degree of ability to respond to their environment, develop ways to protect themselves from predators, et al.
We all know of people who seem to kill plants by just being. We like wise know that some music helps plants while other forms of music kill. My daughter seems to have the ability to kill plastic plants whereas her mother has the proverbial
green thumb." Only something that is sentient could possibly have these kinds of reactions.
When I used to belong to a number of environmental groups, and I must confess the ACLU, someone in an article, I cannot remember who right now, made an allusion to the fact that all life survives on death. It was at that moment I began to look at life in a far different manner.
Sometimes i read too much for my own good.

Lindsay Harold said...

One might even think of meat-eating as causing less pain and suffering. After all, slaughtering animals is usually done quickly and humanely, with little pain to the animal. Plants, on the other hand, are eaten or harvested alive, thus causing more suffering. You're actually dismembering a living organism when you cut broccoli off a broccoli plant or pull ears of corn off the stalks. Eating meat is less cruel.

sestamibi said...

Hey Stuart, read this:

Sam L. said...

Sooooo, we need to kill off the bugs and birds and mammals and fish that eat plants alive, excepting those that pollenize? And animals that prey on other animals bust be eliminated, too. Humans, at least, normally kill those plants before eating them

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

And what of rocks?

Ares Olympus said...

When my sister was in her early 20's she proposed that humanity should declare our collective mission to help all the carnivores of the world live without eating other animals. Her vision came Isaiah 11:6. I guess there's no biblical visions of saving the plants, so they're stuck being our food.

It may be that all the moralizing guilt of the suffering of animals for vegetarians is silly neuroticism, or it may be their path to spiritual awareness.

Worrying about the suffering of plants sounds even sillier, but not impossible to rectify by a clever neurotic. They might say its moral to eat from the fruit of plants, as long as we don't eat the seeds.

And I actually think about that hiking through the wilderness, if I eat a wild berry, I'll try to spit out some of the seeds along the trail so a new generation of fruit will return next year.

And you can express other moral laws as well, like agriculture as a monoculture may be no better than factory farming animals stuck in spaces to small to move.

The context I would apply is from E.F Schumacher, first to accept there is a hierarchy of being, from mineral, plant, animal, and Human, and
For Schumacher one of science's major mistakes has been rejecting the traditional philosophical and religious view that the universe is a hierarchy of being. Schumacher makes a restatement of the traditional chain of being.

He agrees with the view that there are four kingdoms: Mineral, Plant, Animal, Man. He argues that there are critical differences of kind between each level of being. Between mineral and plant is the phenomenon of life, and has not been explained by science. Schumacher points out that though we can recognise life and destroy it, we can't create it.

For Schumacher, a similar jump in level of being takes place between plant and animal, which is differentiated by the phenomenon of consciousness. We can recognise consciousness, not least because we can knock an animal unconscious, but also because animals exhibit at minimum primitive thought and intelligence.

The next level, according to Schumacher, is between Animal and Man, which are differentiated by the phenomenon of self-consciousness or self awareness. Self-consciousness is the reflective awareness of one's consciousness and thoughts.
He argues that appreciating the different levels of being provides a simple, but clear morality. The traditional view, as Schumacher says, has always been that the proper goal of man is " move higher, to develop his highest faculties, to gain knowledge of the higher and highest things, and, if possible, to 'see God'. If he moves lower, develops only his lower faculties, which he shares with the animals, then he makes himself deeply unhappy, even to the point of despair."

What I like about Schumacher's views is to see humanity as containing all four levels of being at once, so we have to obey the lower laws (must eat to survive), but we can use moral law to set conditions for which we eat.

And things we can't change, we can still acknowledge through our gratitude towards the food that sustains us, and that spiritual focus may change nothing in action, but allows us a different sense of relationship to the world.

It is easy in the modern world to have no sort of "relationship" with the origin of our food, but gardens are one way. And many people talk to their plants, and you can imagine the plants talk back by growing strong, and happy as long as you don't eat them until their seeds are ready, a fair exchange I think.

Dennis said...

It is why we put fish that are too small back in the water. It is why most meat eaters don't eat the young and why a significant number don't eat females that bear the young.
Until one has watched what happens to deer who over populate an area one does not appreciate that humans are a predator who has a place in the evolution of life. I worked at a place that was quite large with wild turkey, white tail deer, eagles, et al. In fact we were providing the environment for eagles to breed, had brought back the deer from extinction, among other things. We did so well that you could not go many places without running into them. We had to finally allow both bow and gun hunting in order to keep the deer healthy.
In the final analysis we all eat food and become food for something else. The best we can do is treat that which extends our lives with respect and ensure their continued survival.
I have never understood the people who want to call us animals and then abhor the fact that we are animals. Far too many people live in cities and have no idea of where and how the food they consumes appears on their table. Too much Disney and not enough reality.
Sometimes I feel real pity for people in cities because when a real catastrophe happens they will be the first to starve and die or worse yet turn into animals and kill everyone and everything in order to survive.