Plants have just as much right to life as bacon

I have had an interesting and oftentimes contentious relationship with vegetarians. Recently, a vegetarian told me that while she does not eat meat, so has no issue with people who choose to do so except for one minor bit of confusion:

Why not eat all meat?

“If you’re going to eat cow and pig and duck, why not dog or horse?”

I respect this type of logic a great deal.

Another friend of mine has claimed that he is a vegetarian for years but continues to eat fish. “You’re a pescartarian,” I had told  him over and over, but he never believed me, assuming that I was making up the word.  Recently, he pulled out his iPhone to prove me wrong and discovered that he had been mislabeling himself for the past ten years.

I found this quite amusing.

But it’s the ethical vegetarians with whom I often come to verbal blows.  Almost without fail, these individuals find it necessary to proselytize as I am devouring my third helping of pork chop, preaching about the evils of slaughter houses, the cruelty associated with eating meat, and most recently, the way in which the meat industry contributes to global warming.

And over the years, I have said the same thing to these self-righteous leaf eaters:

What makes you think that plants don’t possess have the same right to life as the pig whose muscle and fatty tissues are now on my plate.  Do you really think that human being’s understanding of the workings of nature are so advanced and complete that we can assert, without any question, that plants possess no sentient powers?  Just because a pig can walk and oink doesn’t mean it has any more right to life than a potato or a head of lettuce.

This argument has been scoffed at and mocked for years, then low and behold a New York Times piece comes out last week arguing essentially the same thing!  Writer Natalie Angier writes:

“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.”

My initial reaction to this piece was utter annoyance at the thought that Angier had unknowingly stolen my dinner table argument , but after I overcame this bout with petty foolishness, I found myself pleased to have an ally on the side of plants.

I have two wishes for plants and for the vegetarians who devour them:

1.  Someday scientists will discover a way to communicate with plants in a meaningful way, and we will all discover that carrots and corn possess as much sentience as human beings and more advanced mental faculties than pigs and cows. Ethical vegetarians would be sent into fits of confusion and remorse, leaping off buildings, launching into starvation diets, and attempting to digest rocks, dirt and styrofoan in the place of plants.

2.  A race of plant based aliens will arrive on Earth, horrified at the way we treat their distant cousins. Devouring them in salads, using their bodies to build our shelters, and locking them up inside greenhouses for their entire lives, these plant-based aliens will hardly believe what they are seeing.  Enraged, they will use their photosynthesis death ray to eliminate all human life on Earth, beginning with the ethical vegetarians.

Obviously, both wishes are slightly tongue in cheek, but you get the idea.