Ethical Eating: The Complexity of Plants

Ethical Eating: The Complexity of Plants

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Emily Han
Jan 6, 2010

Growing up an ethical vegetarian/vegan, I can't tell you how many times other kids tried to provoke me by noting that I was still killing vegetables for my food. It turns out this topic isn't confined to the schoolyard. A recent New York Times science article, "Sorry, Vegans: Brussels Sprouts Like to Live, Too," explores the idea that animals aren't the only living things that aspire to live. What does this mean, if anything, for those of us who aspire to make ethical eating choices?

Author Natalie Angier writes:

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.

As silly as it may sound, I have occasionally felt pangs of concern about the (possible) suffering of plants I eat. Certainly I wouldn't stop eating vegetables, but it does fuel an even deeper gratitude for my food, and at the same time dissolves any judgments I might have toward meat eaters. And that, I believe, is the message of the article. In a time when "debates over food choices have flared with particular vehemence," morality is far more complex than we may realize.

Have you read the article (and the nearly 800 comments it has inspired)? What do you think?

• Read the article: Sorry, Vegans: Brussels Sprouts Like to Live, Too

Related:
AT on ... Can You Be Green and Eat Meat?
How Far Would You Go? Greening All, Most, or Part of Your Lifestyle?
Last Night on PBS: The Botany of Desire
Omnivorism: Still a Dilemma?

(Image: Flickr member abolotnov licensed under Creative Commons)

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