Why Kill Plants?

Author: Uncle Bob
Publisher: MSAC Philosophy Group
Publication date: 1996

E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at dlane@weber.ucsd.edu

I want to go back to the home base now.

Dear Dave,

Well, I realize that its been several months since you've written with the suggestion that I read the "Why I Don't Eat Faces" article, but I've finally gotten the chance to read it. I'm a slow reader with a very busy life, and I should be downstairs making room to begin the arduous job of overhauling my airplane's engine, but something has reminded me about our discussion about life.

Now that I've read the article, I've got a few comments. Do you remember the "trans-humans?" They couldn't perceive that we had intelligence. Since they couldn't communicate with us, they figured that it was OK to "harvest" us. I believe the same (or very similar) can be said of plants. Our next door neighbor cut down 4 very big trees in order to install a swimming pool. The tree service was cramming 100 year old trees into an incredibly powerful tree grinding machine. Hundreds of thousands of potential btu's or even exquisite lumber was being turned into so many chips which, no doubt, were headed for the landfill, to ad insult to injury. I offered to take what was left (an enormous job) and turn it into firewood, since the lumber idea was no longer feasible. I was told that at least 8 feet (or more) sections of those wonderful walnut trees were needed to make it worth a lumber miller's while. Anyway, I went out with my little chainsaw and set to work. I've never actually dealt with cutting live trees before, so I wasn't aware of just how *alive* trees really are. As I was cutting, I became aware of a certain quality that I cannot describe (one must sense it). I also noticed how incredibly complex and colorful the "insides" of a tree can be. In the center was an incredible sort of deep purple surrounded by an area of white, which bordered an astounding area of a sort of bright orange-yellow. There was sort of a border area between the bright orange area and what was to become the bark. Of course these things have names like heartwood, sapwood, primary/secondary xylem, cambium, primary/secondary phloem, and doubtlessly others that I am not even aware of. If you were to study plants, even on a purely scientific level, you'd soon see that although they don't have a CNS, as we know it, they are nonetheless remarkably complex entities that hold secrets about life that we have yet to fully understand. I was amazed at the beauty of what I was witnessing as I cut the sections into firewood. The colors were such that I had never seen before. These were trees that had been alive far longer than I, and they still had a life force about them. However, within a short time, the colors began to fade, until they just looked like any old cross section of wood (not that I haven't always marveled over this remarkable material we call wood). What is so different between your analogy of the transhumans/ us/the cows and humans/cows/plants? Just because plants don't have a CNS as we know it, you act as if it is an accepted fact that plants don't suffer when we murder them. I might suggest that it does serve to make one feel better about being a vegetarian (which, BTW, I have no argument--for some people the benefits are astounding). But on the other side of the coin, some people don't seem to flourish on a purely vegan diet. Don't get me wrong, I truly do believe (actually know) that "food" animals suffer horribly, not only when they are slaughtered, but almost from the moment they are born. Most are raised under the most unfathomably inhumane circumstances that I could ever care to imagine. Also, BTW, animals for the most part, tend to be quite psychic and communicate a great deal via psychic impressions/images. Don't think for a NY minute that when animals enter the slaughterhouses, they can't sense the nauseating fear/death aura that pervades those most unholy of places. I agree that our current eating habits, especially in the "civilized" world are abysmal. However, many of the indigenous peoples around the world, do in fact, eat flesh of many descriptions. But, many of them, unlike us, thank the animal that has just been sacrificed to provide sustenance for them. We, in our often glutinous glee, simply "wolf down" many "faces" without ever giving a second thought. I would also like to mention that the "faces" article mentioned how children raised on farms often became attached to their pets and did not kill them. While that must certainly true in some cases, more often than not, the majority of true "farm" children just learn to accept what IMHO is basically unacceptable. While I know that I'd personally not have the heart to raise an animal and then eat it, my viewpoint is in the minority at the typical 4-H meetings. Many of these kids raise, pamper, bathe, groom to perfection, and then market their prize winning animals. It's a fact of life--my wife spent some time on a farm as a child, and after they moved off the farm, she still lived in the middle of hundreds of farms in an unincorporated hamlet in Wisconsin. In fact, she was the first person in her family's history to go to college. We're talking about someone who has many stories from deep within the farm country of our country, not to mention my own experiences. I am now living in the middle of a farming state. I saw a little piece on the news recently about a farm boy who had brought his young dog into class to be disected after he had shot it. The news person interviewed several people. Some said that they thought that it was terribly cruel, while some didn't seem to see what all the fuss was about, and still another big farm boy said, "It's their animal, they can do anything they want to with it as long as they clean up the mess." As you can see, not all "farm" kids are created equally. Basically, I just don't see how you can make the "moral" claim about animals with sophisticated CNS's. There are studies that have been done that show that plants have their own types of feelings. Like I mentioned in my last email letter, if you raise two plants side by side and then after they mature, start pulling the leaves off of one plant, the other "unharmed" plant has a reaction to its "friend" being tortured right there by its side. Have you ever hiked into a deep virgin forest and felt the life force there? Have you ever marveled over hundreds of trees that are far older than our country? These trees have an enormous presence. I remember on many occasions (some with the assistance of some form of psychoactive substance [a quarter century ago]) being able to communicate with these trees on one profound level or another. You could call it some form of hallucination, but I'd call it some form of an altered state of awareness, more akin to a spiritual experience, and in this particular case--no less valid than the so-called "waking" state. You've mentioned that, in nature, animals eat one another. This is one of the great mysteries of life that I will not likely be able to resolve in the near future. This is, in fact, a dog-eat-dog world. The big fish eat the smaller fish. Even bigger fish eat the big fish. The lion eats the antelope and the who knows how many other types of animals. Bears eat berries, but they also eat meat. At times, nature is unsurpassed in beauty; at times it is unparalleled in ruthlessness and horror. What is life? Is it chemical? Is it biological? Is it electro- magnetic? Or is it something beyond all of these? Are these attributes only a partial reflection of the essence of life? OK, life "IS." That's just about the only thing that we can say for sure--life just *IS.* Will you rely on science to set the parameters for what it is or is not? Will you rely on man to define the Laws of Life? Much of mankind cannot even agree if there is such a thing as Soul, much less a Creator. If there is not a Creator, how then did we come into existence? It would seem that there are two possibilities: 1) There is nothing, a void--there was never anything, there never will be anything--"you cannot get something from nothing." 2) There is a Creator. Of course these two possibilities inevitably lead to more questions. Obviously by the fact that you are here, you wrote TMSM, you are reading this message--you have existence. Even if it is an illusion, you still have some form of consciousness. By virtue of the fact that you have some form of awareness, possibility #1 is pretty much out the window. If there is a Creator, then what came before IT? Where did IT come from? What gave IT life? Honestly, ernestly, and sincerely ponder these questions for a while and let me know what you come up with. I suppose you could argue that possibility #1 is possible. Maybe there was nothing and then just by chance, the right combination of chemicals somehow got together and wa-la, life in its most primitive form "happened." After a few (several) million years, bingo, here we are. But that sort of negates #1 also, because if there never was anything, there could NOT be any matter or energy. There would never be any rocks flying around in a giant void for chemicals to form into life in the first place. So once again, we have to concede that the second choice looks more and more like the only reasonable possibility. Now that we've got that out of the way, we come back to plants. What are plants? What is life? You tell me. Can you assume that because you have a complex CNS, you can therefore possess consciousness, and plants cannot? Have you ever seen animals act strangely several days before an earthquake? There are those who would say that it is just an old wive's tale. But I've seen it, and I've been through a lot more than one earthquake. I'd say that it is obviously something that we cannot yet measure. Therefore, we cannot "prove" its existence. Does that mean that it doesn't exist? There are plenty of so-called "scientists" who still proclaim that animals can't think. A couple of months ago, when a small child fell many feet into the territory of gorillas at a zoo in (or near) Chicago, a female gorilla protected the human child from another possibly aggressive gorilla (which I think was a male). She then proceeded the carry to child to the access door of the gorilla's domain so the humans could rescue the child. Scientists waste the oxygen we need to breathe by using it to proclaim that animals cannot think or reason. Obviously that gorilla was thinking and reasoning, but science has said it cannot be so. Because we cannot measure it, does that mean that it does not exist? I'm beginning to wonder if certain buffoons who proclaim to be "scientists" are at all capable of intelligent thought. Why leave plants out of the arena of life? It reminds me of the hopelessly malinformed Christians who believe that animals are without Soul. What is life? Can there be life without some animating force? Is life a product of the mish mash of synapses that exist in our brains? Is life a product of the mind? What exactly is the "mind?" The term mind connotes something more than the brain. Life implies something more spiritual in essence--again something that science cannot prove. I would vote for life being something more than brain or mind--far more. Even the "Singh brothers" say that there is something beyond what mind is. They say that Soul, that individual spark, created from the essence of Life, is far, far, beyond the realm of the mind. Scientists remain clueless. Scientists and philosophers can ruminate these questions about life until the hot regions of some lower Astral hell freezes over, but it will likely not answer the many pressing questions about the origin or essence of life or what life is. How can you, I, or anyone else claim that they hold the "patent" on the meaning of life and what is "true" and/or what is "real?" How can you dare to proclaim that plants could not be yet another form of life that we have yet come to understand? How can you claim that not eating meat is necessarily superior to eating it? How can you say that it's OK to murder plants, but not OK to murder animals? How can you be so smug as to say that the complexity of a CNS defines a living thing's life force? Why do so many indigenous peoples around the world look at all forms of life as sacred? Why is it that to survive on this plane, all forms of life must consume some other form of life? That may sound like a pretty basic question, but it's a pretty profound one. You tell me--why? I ask that question often. I don't totally agree with the way this universe is set up, but the Creator might just know something that I have yet to comprehend. A being can't survive by merely minding its own business. It's got to protect its turf in one fashion or another, and it's got to kill something in order to survive. That's a basic question that pretty much includes all of us. Even plants compete for sunlight and territory. Many plants put off substances that are toxic to other plants. Wild grapevines with use other plants to climb upon and eventually shade out the competing plant. Some plants are parasites, sucking the very life out of other plants. Conifers make the soil around them so acid that many other types of plants cannot compete with them. There are far more exotic schemes of protection, competition, and survival in the plant kingdom. Several plants are even "meat eaters." Life is so vast and complex that I doubt we can neatly fit everything into someone's personal perception of right and wrong. Show me a belief system or religion that's not full of paradoxes and enigmas. From my angle of view, those who proclaim that killing plants is somehow spiritually superior to killing animals still leave a lot of unanswered questions lingering. I saw an interesting article ("Finally a Diet That Makes Sense, by Melissa Diane Smith in the January 1996 issue of "Delicious" magazine) in which a new and interesting theory that explores the role of genetics in a person's biochemistry and how we react to certain types of food. She claimed that our genetic structures could be traced back to the misty past and were influenced by how our ancestors survived. Were they nomadic or were they farmers? Did they live in a polar region or an equatorial region? Did they eat mostly meat or did they include domesticated grains in their diets? There were several categories that I cannot recall now, but it made as much sense as anything I've heard yet. She pretty much said that some people today do very well with no meat in their diets at all, while others virtually cannot thrive or even survive without it. Some do well with fruits, while others do better with vegetables. I'm not doing her article justice, but I am conveying some of the basic ideas. (Addendum: I just found out that the the above mentioned article was based on a book by Ann Louise Gittleman: "Your Body Knows Best," Pocket Books, ISBN 0-671-87592-2. My wife had the book and I didn't even realize it.) To pronounce that all people would be better off both "morally," and physically, IMHO, is hopelessly flawed. When initially considered, it does seem obvious (on the surface anyway) that not eating those with a complex CNS is a superior way to approach life. But life is not all black and white--the truly complex and deep issues about life lie mostly in those often overlooked gray areas. When you figure out why the Creator decided to have animals ripping each other's throats out on a daily basis, for literally millions and millions of years, you can let me and the rest of the world know. When you figure out how a cow turns grass into milk or how plants create photosynthesis, I hope you'll share it with us also. When you figure out why the Creator created more paradoxes than IT did straight answers, please let me know. Until then I have to assume that those who claim to be somehow spiritually superior because they have chosen to murder plants instead of animals have not considered all the "facts." They might just be "barking up the wrong tree." Uncle Bob

E-mail The Neural Surfer directly at dlane@weber.ucsd.edu

I want to go back to the home base now.