18 September, 2007

What about plants?

This is a question I sometimes hear (though I have no reason on Earth why...).

What about plants? They feel pain too!

Let me take this piece by piece.

First, you have a factually incorrect premise and a logically incorrect premise: that plants feel pain (factual) and that if plants felt pain, and we eat plants, then it's not wrong to eat animals (logical).

The factual premise is wrong, well, because of science and because of common sense. First, the science-y part of it is broken up into three parts: behavioural, evolutionary, and anatomical.

Behavioural: Even mollusks will pull away from a painful touch. Clams will snap closed; bees will start stinging more easily; fish will writhe. Yet, plants do none of these things. Part of the reason that we know animals feel pain is that they show it - yes, even cows, if you know what to look for! Plants cannot scream, writhe, pull away, or move at all to get away from pain. This leads us to the next segment...
Evolutionary: Plants can't move. They can grow, but they can't move. (Corals are, believe it or not, collections of animals, so they don't count.) So why would they have any reason to develop or retain the ability to feel pain? Not only that, but being in pain constantly - say, from being eaten by bugs - tends to send someone into shock, unable to function. All plants that had the ability to feel pain would have died out because they wouldn't have been able to function. Sure, they'd respirate and whatnot, but they wouldn't actually be able to do anything. And that leads us to the last segment...
Anatomical: Yes, surprisingly, having a central nervous system doesn't mean much (mollusks, clams, mussels, etc. can feel pain; they just react to it later because they have a nerve net rather than a CNS); having a nervous system does. One must have nerves that transmit pain to feel pain, as well as the neurotransmitters to feel pain with; and no, the veins you see on plant leaves are not nerves. Das Ende.

Then there is the common sense argument: do you really believe that slicing a lettuce in half is the same as slicing a dog in half? (Hint: if you said "yes" to this, you're lying or off your meds.)

The second fallacious premise - that it can't be wrong to eat animals if plants feel pain and we eat those too - stands on the idea that veganism is impossible to do "perfectly" unless you're dead - it's used as an excuse to not go vegan, and nothing more. All of you out there who are reading this know that, because you've had it used on you or you've used it. But if you do really believe it, think about this:

It kills more plants to eat animals than it does to just eat plants.

Yep, that's right. It's not even, it's not balanced. It takes 10+ pounds of wheat to have a cow pack on a pound of flesh (let's remember that there's a someone in the equation, eh?), three lbs. for chickens. Meanwhile, us vegans are happily chowing down on that lb. of wheat ourselves, while the carnists are eating a lb. of steak and along with it, those 10+ lbs. of wheat. (I'll let someone else do the environmental implications of "grass-fed" cow flesh.)

So, if you're really concerned about plants, the best thing to do is, yep, go vegan! Or fruitarian, since theoretically you don't have to kill any plants to remain on that diet. (Go to http://fruitarian.org for more. ;))

Remember... don't get mad... get vegan!


  1. LOL @ "Don't get mad, get Vegan!" That's damn PERFECT. :D

  2. hell yeah! GO VEGAN!

  3. Where is the mind located in molluscs that experiences pain? No brain, no experience of of pain.

  4. Note to anonymous:

    I'll make a deal with you. You quit eating cows, pigs, sheep, turkeys, chickens, and all the other animals that you are quite sure have brains. I will not say a peep about your consumption of mollusks until at least a year afterward.

    By then, I bet you will have stopped eating them, too. Your mindset will have changed from "How can I finagle it - what loophole can I find - so that it's 'ok' to eat this animal?" to "How can I be as inclusive as possible in my compassion and moral consideration of sentient life?"