Really?? OK, we secretly don’t mind this question, and we especially like it when an esteemed newspaper like the New York Times publishes an article covering this topic (in their ‘Science’ section no less!) . If they can, why can’t we? This question allows us to get into a quasi-scientific debate with people and helps us make a few valid points about what’s wrong with eating animals in the process.
So let’s not waste time mocking the question. It can be a legitimate one (if you put common sense aside). Let’s not also get caught up in scientific studies that claim to discover new facts, only to be debunked by the next scientific study. Let’s just focus on a few basic questions:
Are plants like animals?
Can cows fly? Seriously, plants are fascinating and complex organisms that exhibit behavior that could be perceived to imply sentience (the ability to feel and perceive, to experience pleasure and pain), but they’re definitely not like animals. For example, when a plant is threatened or damaged, it releases chemicals as a defense mechanism. These responses to external stimuli could obviously be perceived to be “behavior”, similar to what animals exhibit and therefore lead people to conclude that plants may have the ability to feel and perceive the world around them. However, making an argument for plant sentience is like saying cancer cells may be sentient, because they react to external stimuli and exhibit chemical reactions and processes.
Further, let’s not forget that plants are a natural resource; we need to eat plants to live and we are dependent on plants for our survival on this planet (not just for nutrition). These conditions do not apply when it comes to our relation with animals. Have you met a human being (at least one that’s alive) who survives solely on animal products? On the other hand, you can live a perfectly happy and healthy life consuming only plants.
But what if we don’t know enough about plants?
It’s easy to understand why this discussion could lead someone who enjoys eating meat and other animal products to conclude that we might as well eat animals, since not eating them could lead us down a ridiculous slippery slope where we might not be able to eat anything. Such a conclusion, unfortunately amounts to nothing more than an excuse to justify our consumption of animals. This slippery slope argument is as intellectually sound as the argument against gay marriage, which states that if we allow gay people to marry, humans may want to marry their pets next. Pure genius!
So what should we eat?
If you are truly morally concerned about plants and the possibility that science may prove that plants share the same feelings and desires as pigs, chickens, cows and humans, there is something you can do now. Remember that the animals we breed and then kill for food and other purposes are also fed PLANTS. In the U.S., 70% of the grain grown is fed to animals on feedlots (See Plants, Genes, and Agriculture by Jones and Bartlet) and it takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat (See The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat by Mark Gold and Jonathon Porritt). To make matters even worse, the world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people—more than the entire human population on Earth (The Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat). There you go — eating meat is not only harming plants, but also hungry people all over the world!
The solution for all morally conflicted plant-lovers is an easy one; GO VEGAN! Because, by doing so, not only will you definitively reduce animal suffering, but you will also reduce the amount of potential “suffering” that plants have to endure in order to be killed for the animals we use and eat. Further, even if you don’t care about plants or animals, wouldn’t it be great if we could grow plants to feed the millions of starving people all over the world, instead of feeding animals, just so that we can kill and consume them?
So the next time anyone tries to justify their consumption of animals by comparing plants and animals or highlighting the unintentional harming and killing of animals in the process of harvesting vegetables, remind them that veganism is still unequivocally the more morally defensible option.
Alternatively, you can just advise them to use some common sense.
What are YOUR thoughts on this issue? Let us know in the comments section below!