letter to Ted Rall

Letter in reply to Ted Rall's column:

Hello Ted. Long time reader, first time writer.

Regarding your piece "What Must Die So We Can Live?":

> Since the mid-19th century, some scientists have claimed, for example,
> that plants respond to music and speech. "The Secret Life of Plants" was
> a bestseller in the 1970s. The truth is, no one knows.

In fact, we know pretty well. "The Secret Life of Plants" is in the
same category as creation science, global warming "skepticism", and
claims of telekinesis: highly refined bunk.

We know from both observation and theory that plants do not have the
sort of complex information-processing capabilities seen in vertebrate
animals. Plant behavior isn't complicated enough to require brains -
there'd be no evolutionary advantage in an immobile creature developing
anything like a nervous system.

We can state with a fair degree of certainty that plants do not
have the capacity to be "subjects of a life", to have a subjective
experience.

But even if we were to grant ethical consideration to plants, veganism
would still be the most ethical choice - fewer plants are killed by eating
plants directly, then by feeding them to cows, chickens, et cetera, and
then eating the flesh, eggs, or secretions of those animals.

> Who's to say, for example, that sentience--reasoning, feeling,
> emotion--is a fair barometer of whether or not a life-form deserves to
> be eaten?

If we are operating from compassion, we feel (to some degree) what
others feel. When considering the mistreatment of an animal capable of
suffering, we suffer (slightly) ourselves.

When considering the mistreatment of a plant or a rock, there's no
direct suffering to cause an echo within us.

(We still might consider the impact that killing trees has on animals,
or we might the biosphere as a being to be protected, and be moved by
indirect suffering. We might also suffer from the aesthetic and spiritual
deprivation that occurs when we cut down trees and pave over prairies - not
to mention the biochemical environmental impact.)

> As for me, I've been thinking of going vegetarian

Great. Let me recommend John Robbin's book, "The Food Revolution":

http://www.powells.com/biblio/1-9781573247023-2

If you have any questions about practical aspects of vegetarianism or
veganism, please feel free to drop me a line. (I've been vegetarian for
about twenty-five years, vegan for eighteen.)

-Tom Swiss
tms@infamous.net
www.infamous.net

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