21 December 2009

A quantum leap in ethical-eating nonsense

I don't think this piece in the New York Times is meant to be sarcastic. If it isn't, it's the most ridiculous thing I've ever read w/r/t the ethics of vegetarianism v. omnivory:
But before we cede the entire moral penthouse to “committed vegetarians” and “strong ethical vegans,” we might consider that plants no more aspire to being stir-fried in a wok than a hog aspires to being peppercorn-studded in my Christmas clay pot. This is not meant as a trite argument or a chuckled aside. Plants are lively and seek to keep it that way. 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. [Emphases mine.]
It's the pathetic fallacy masquerading as a serious argument.


  1. I believe the point she's trying to make (regardless of the silly anthropomorphizing of plants) is that, in order to sustain life, you must inevitably take life. Why draw the line and say that killing some organisms is morally abhorrent while killing others is perfectly fine?

  2. See, that point I don't object to. But making it by anthropomorphising and, worse, implying that scientists think plants have something like independent volition just because they have complex adaptive responses to external stimuli, does that point a major disservice.

    (For what it's worth, I eat meat, but not a lot, and inasmuch as that's an ethical choice rather than economic necessity, it's because eating lots of meat is environmentally unsustainable, not because I'm strongly moved by the cruelty of farming practices.)

  3. I could never be a vegetarian… I lack the personal will power to abstain from delicious steaks, roasts, BBQ chicken, pork loin, etc…

    Anyway, the best way to protest cruel farming practices isn’t to become a vegetarian - quite the opposite. The best way to reduce the inHUMANe treatment of livestock is to purchase meat in abundance – from farms with un-cruel practices. Money can push change far more than just making ethical pleas.