As it is vegetarians (myself included) don’t eat any meat products – this includes chicken, pork, beef and seafood – and now we’re meant to feel guilty about eating plants and vegetable life? A recent column in the NYT‘s Science section by Carol Kaesuk Yoon points out that plants have feelings too even though they lack a “face”.

Yoon writes that, “Unlike a lowing, running cow, a plant’s reactions to attack are much harder for us to detect. But just like a chicken running around without its head, the body of a corn plant torn from the soil or sliced into pieces struggles to save itself, just as vigorously and just as uselessly, if much less obviously to the human ear and eye.”

She uses science-backed data to prove that plants can feel pain and fight for their lives in much the same way an animal does before it is slaughtered. It is just more difficult to detect because you can’t quite see their responses with the naked eye. Her argument then is that if plants and animals can both feel pain – then why give up meat for humanitarian reasons in the first place?

I guess it all comes down to choices and justifications. Which would you rather harm? What do you think has to most environmental impact? Which diet can you personally sustain? And a host of moral, ethical, cultural and religious mores play into an eater’s decision. In short, it’s complicated.

It should be noted that Yoon tried her hand at being a vegetarian for several years (seemingly making the decision on a whim after being stuck driving for several miles behind a truck taking a bunch of pigs to slaughter) before she gave it up. Hm.

Photo credit: Corn Harvesting in Korea,