Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Something Dies For A Vegan Meal Too

Sorry, Vegans: Brussels Sprouts Like to Live, Too
Published: December 21, 2009

I stopped eating pork about eight years ago, after a scientist happened to mention that the animal whose teeth most closely resemble our own is the pig. Unable to shake the image of a perky little pig flashing me a brilliant George Clooney smile, I decided it was easier to forgo the Christmas ham. A couple of years later, I gave up on all mammalian meat, period. I still eat fish and poultry, however and pour eggnog in my coffee. My dietary decisions are arbitrary and inconsistent, and when friends ask why I’m willing to try the duck but not the lamb, I don’t have a good answer. Food choices are often like that: difficult to articulate yet strongly held. And lately, debates over food choices have flared with particular vehemence.

In his new book, “Eating Animals,” the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer describes his gradual transformation from omnivorous, oblivious slacker who “waffled among any number of diets” to “committed vegetarian.” Last month, Gary Steiner, a philosopher at Bucknell University, argued on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times that people should strive to be “strict ethical vegans” like himself, avoiding all products derived from animals, including wool and silk. Killing animals for human food and finery is nothing less than “outright murder,” he said, Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “eternal Treblinka.”

But before we cede the entire moral penthouse to “committed vegetarians” and “strong ethical vegans,” we might consider that plants no more aspire to being stir-fried in a wok than a hog aspires to being peppercorn-studded in my Christmas clay pot. This is not meant as a trite argument or a chuckled aside. Plants are lively and seek to keep it that way. The more that scientists learn about the complexity of plants — their keen sensitivity to the environment, the speed with which they react to changes in the environment, and the extraordinary number of tricks that plants will rally to fight off attackers and solicit help from afar — the more impressed researchers become, and the less easily we can dismiss plants as so much fiberfill backdrop, passive sunlight collectors on which deer, antelope and vegans can conveniently graze. It’s time for a green revolution, a reseeding of our stubborn animal minds.

“Plants are not static or silly,” said Monika Hilker of the Institute of Biology at the Free University of Berlin. “They respond to tactile cues, they recognize different wavelengths of light, they listen to chemical signals, they can even talk” through chemical signals. Touch, sight, hearing, speech. “These are sensory modalities and abilities we normally think of as only being in animals,” Dr. Hilker said. Read More

When vegetarians or vegans try telling you that nothing had to die for their meal, you might mention that everything they will ever eat was once alive and then died. It drives them nuts when you do it, but that’s usually the case when logic is applied against an emotional argument. More than likely, they will use the tired argument that plants don’t have a central nervous system. It might not be like ours, but they can and do respond to stimuli. I have been accused of speciesism because I choose to eat meat, but a vegan diet isn’t any different. ~Troy


The Almond Doctor said...

Enjoyed the defining of emotion v/s logic. This is something everyone deals with. I will note that you forgot about the plants who want us to eat them to help spread their progeny (think berries). Now thats altruism as its finest!

Bea Elliott said...

It's not a matter of "nothing had to die" for a vegan meal. The point is there is LESS harm in eating a plant based diet.

If you really want to argue the "sentience" of plants - a vegan diet still causes less harm considering that 70% of the crops are grown to fatten animals. If we ate the vegetation directly we would... (following your logic) be causing plants less "suffering".

Furthermore, when I pick a bean, tomato, orange, avacado, berry, etc. The plant is not killed... Can you say this for a pig, cow or chicken? Can we just painlessly slice a piece off and it have no harm?

Tell you what... If plants and animals are on the same level - I will invite all my neighbors over to either help me cut my lawn & shrubs... OR invite them over for a bbq (the condition being they must slaughter their own meal) --- I know for sure I'd have much help in the yard and zero shows for the "food".

No one likes killing animals. It is against our ethical and moral consideration. Stop embarassing yourself with "plant feelings". A five year old could see through the error.

Anonymous said...

I think the premise of this article is kind of absurd. Are we supposed to value all life equally, making no distinctions or preferences between life forms? Microscopic bacteria also reacts to stimuli. Is the mere act of breathing, thereby exterminating scores of airborne lifeforms, somehow equivalent to killing a helpless pig?

If we only allowed "logical" arguments, somehow to conclude that a vegan diet is "no different than eating meat", then there should be no difference between a meat eater and a cannibal either, unless you can give me a logical reason why human life is somehow different.

Furthermore, there are plenty of foods that can be consumed without killing the mother plant, such as most fruits, nuts, herbs, and many vegetables. Often, plants have evolved with the consumption of their produce in mind, as it is the main source of distribution of their seed. This is a far cry from the unwilling animal, whose instinct is to evade predators.