I’m in a Philosophy of Animals class this semester. One of my last courses before I begin the dissertation process. Already by the second meeting, we got in a bit of debate about how we distinguish animals as more morally worthy than plants. Our readings focused on neo-Aristotlean phenomenologies of the animal as well as extension of “subjective experience” to the simplest moving life-forms. But as often happens, there was a great deal of reticence to think of plants as interchanging information and sensing the world around them in a significant way.
I cannot buy the argument any longer that animals are so much different to plants that we should not be concerned about what we do to plants as much as we are concerned about what we do to animals.
My own take is that you should have the highest possible vegatarian–even vegan–diet that you can have not because animals are more prone to suffering or more sentient rather because the animal processing industry is horrifying. If you personally know the animals being raised for slaughter, participate in the slaughter or are acquainted well with the one who does the slaughter, I am not sure that it is wrong to eat meat.
The world is more alive than we give credence; plants and other non-animals are more sentient than we want to admit. Respecting plants and keeping them from their own industrial horrors is probably pretty important. If I am dealing with local farmers and eating what is in season, or if I am growing plants and raising chickens–respectful life, open compassion, and sincere hospitality can be practiced toward all that stretches out to sense the world-pattern.
…the realisation that we have some things in common with plants might be an opportunity to accept that we are more plant-like than we would like to think, just as plants are more animal-like than we usually assume.
Source: BBC – Earth – Plants can see, hear and smell – and respond