People For the Ethical Treatment of Plants: 4 Reasons Why the “Plant Sentience” Argument Doesn’t Work

plants have feelings too, carrot, eating, plant sentience, pain, murder

Right… because cows don’t eat plants. [image credit: lerms]

Whether you’re a vegan who has been called a “plant murderer” by a non-vegan, a non-vegan who is trying (and failing) to be funny, or just someone with an affinity for plants, this is information you need to read.  The issue of plant sentience is being brought up more and more as a reason to justify the continued consumption and use of animal products.  There are, however, a few things wrong with this argument.  Here are four reasons the “plant sentience” argument doesn’t work:

1. Plants are not truly sentient

Though certain scientific studies have shown that plants can react to stimuli, these reactions do not point to sentience because they lack three basic qualifications for requiring sentience:

  • Sensory organs — Plants don’t have organs which enable them to see, hear, taste, etc. like animals do.
  • Variability of response — Animals have a conscious perception which acts as an intermediary between their environment and their many different behavioral responses to it.  Plants lack this variability in that they will react in the same manner regardless of different scenarios (ex.: growing toward the sun).
  • Appetite and locomotion — Nature has enabled animals to be sentient because they have the ability to move around.  As I discussed briefly in my post about “ethical meat”, pain exists to teach sentient creatures what stimuli to avoid in the same way that pleasure exists to teach sentient creatures what stimuli to seek.

Plants do not feel pain the way animals do because they have no reason for it.  If a plant had the means to get up and walk away from an area that was too dry, wet or cold, it would make sense for nature to enable the plant to feel pain.  Enabling a living organism to feel pain without the ability for that organism to alleviate that pain is not something done by nature unless by some sort of mutation (i.e.: a creature being born without limbs or with mental or physical disabilities).

For more information on the science and philosophy explaining why plants are not sentient, click here and here.

2. Logical fallacy: Tu Quoque

A person who uses the “plants have feelings too” argument is guilty of using the Tu Quoque (You Yourself Do It) logical fallacy.  This fallacy has to do with accusing your critic of being guilty of doing the same thing they accuse you of, even though the two situations being compared are not identical.  For example:

“If a vegan can kill plants, then I have the right to kill to animals.”

As I have illustrated above, plants are not sentient and comparing plant’s reactions to stimuli and animal’s proven sentience is not the same, and this renders your argument fallacious.

Taking the above into consideration, for the sake of argument I will ignore the fact that there are clear biological and ethical differences between killing a plant and killing an animal.  Even if there was hypothetically no difference between the two, it still would not change the fact that two wrongs don’t make a right.  For example, if I were to rob a convenience store would that somehow make it okay for you to steal someone’s car?

3. Non-vegans kill more plants than vegans do

Living a lifestyle which includes animal products kills more plants than living a vegan lifestyle because the animals used in these industries are almost exclusively herbivorous (plant-eaters), with many consuming huge amounts of grains, grasses and seeds to be converted into a much smaller amount of meat, dairy and eggs.  Because of this, a non-vegan consumes more plants indirectly than a vegan does directly.  In other words, vegans don’t filter their nutrients through someone else’s digestive system.

Furthermore, animal agriculture is not sustainable and is one of the leading causes of environmental damage, resource depletion, and ecological imbalance, which threatens all plant life, not just the ones consumed by humans.

  • 7 football fields worth of forest land is bulldozed every 60 seconds to create more room for farmed animals and the crops that feed them [The Smithsonian Institution]
  • 80% of all agricultural land in the US is used to raise animals for food and grow grain to feed them — that’s almost 50% of the total land mass of the continental US [Major Uses of Land in the United States by Marlow Vesterby and Kenneth S. Krupa]

If you really care about plants, you should go vegan.

4. The possibility of plant sentience does not minimize the reality of animal sentience

The improbable and unproven sentience of plants has no influence on the proven and blatantly obvious sentience of animals.  Regardless of whether you believe that someone mowing the lawn is decapitating thousands of blades of grass, it doesn’t change the fact that animals suffer so long as you continue to consume them.

As discussed above, unlike plants, animals do have reasons to be sentient.

  • Sensory organs, to feel and perceive the world around them (ex.: ears to listen for lurking predators, eyes to spy on prey, etc.)
  • Variability of response, to respond differently in different situations (ex.: a wildebeest will have different reactions depending on whether a wildebeest or a lion is approaching the herd)
  • Appetite and locomotion, to seek food through foraging or hunting, which requires the ability to move around.  In order for animals to learn what to move toward and what to move away from, they require the ability to perceive pain and pleasure in relation to the objects around them.


vegans are extreme, vegans are plant murderers, plant sentience, plants have feelings too

I don’t see the difference, do you?

In conclusion, because all living creatures must eat to survive, we must choose foods which cause the least amount of harm possible.  Eating animal products causes an extreme amount of harm for not only animals, but for slaughterhouse workers, our planet, and our very own bodies.   And while eating plants can certainly contribute to the harm of laborers, field mice, and the plants themselves, we must remember that this harm happens on a far larger scale in the production of animal products.

Most importantly, we can’t forget that because animals are sentient and because they have the ability to suffer, we mustn’t deny them their basic right to own their own life — to be free from the unnecessary harm that is inherent in all industries which exploit animals.  We must respect the rights of animals if we are indeed the ethical creatures we claim to be.

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94 thoughts on “People For the Ethical Treatment of Plants: 4 Reasons Why the “Plant Sentience” Argument Doesn’t Work

    • Thank you!!!!!!!! I was asked this question just last night at an animal activist event. Go some great answers now.

    • The flaw in your argument is your definition of sentience. Plants are alive on a level humans have barely begun to comprehend. I propose each of you “vegans” read a book called the secret life of plants. If you finish that book still feeling as though plants have no consciousness, then something may be wrong with you. Vegans should climb down off their high horses and realize we all consume sentient beings in one form or another, just because you can’t hear or see your food scream doesn’t mean it can’t.

      Even plants eat animals.

      • The fact still remains that whether or not plants are sentient, people still kill more of them by eating a diet containing animal products. You would know this if you would have taken the time to actually read my post before leaving a comment.

        • I’m not sure you can lay the consumption of vegetation by animals wholly at the door of those who consume animals.If people didnt eat those animals presumably you dont disagree with the fact that those animals would be consuming vegetation in any event (perhaps to a lesser degree)? The difference between the extra vegetation (if any) consumed by the animals because they are going to be eaten as compared to their normal consumption in the course of roaming free is what needs to be compared to those who are vegetarian/vegan. Then you will be in a better position to more accurately state whether carnivores do cause greater consumption of vegetation than vegetarians/vegans.

          I think the argument over what sentience is says a lot about our own state of spiritual enlightenment and scientific knowledge. Its something that ultimately transcends debates of vegans v carnivores and it is a shame that we have to be combative about this. Oh well.

          • Those animals wouldn’t exist if we didn’t breed them for human uses. “Roaming free” is not realistic. Domesticated pigs, as their species exists today, cannot live in the wild. They grow too large and their hooves begin to split under all their weight (from being artificially selected to grow larger, faster). Turkeys and chickens suffer reproductive medical issues and often need to have fluid drained from an inability to lay eggs properly. You can learn about these things and observe them for yourself at any farm animal sanctuary, who rescue domesticated livestock from places like farms that no longer have use for them.

            These animals were not bred for longevity. They were bred for one purpose: for humans to use. If humans stopped breeding them, they would all go extinct because they simply cannot survive on their own in the wild. And please do not attempt to argue for “conservation” of domesticated livestock, somehow trying to make a claim that because they would go extinct if we didn’t breed them that we are in any way doing them a favor by perpetuating their exploitation. They suffer needlessly and perpetuating that suffering does them no favors.

            Furthermore, livestock such as cattle do in fact consume more vegetation than humans do for the simple fact that a cow will consume food proportional to his or her size, just as humans do. Cows consume roughly 45 lbs. of food per day, whereas humans consume roughly 5 lbs. of food per day. A larger animal will require more food. It isn’t rocket science.

            There is no debate whether animals are sentient and can feel and understand pain and terror. It is an observable fact. This is why animal welfare regulations exist at all. This is the reason humans are able to decipher a dog’s cries and barks of joy, sorrow, and pain. This is why pain medication can be administered to humans and non-humans. There is as much of a debate about whether animals are sentient as there is a debate about whether evolution exists or whether gravity exists. We can call it a theory, but the evidence is all around us. Only the most stubborn, closed-minded people ignore facts they themselves can observe and choose to consider any of these an actual “debate.”

      • First, read the post before commenting with your ill-informed opinions.

        Second, Cleve Backster’s experiments have been disproved by the scientific community.So if you take science seriously, you’re telling me there’s something wrong with you?

        Third, no one really thinks that the act of eating a dog and a tomato is the same. If you do, you are crazy.

      • Consciousness is not the same as individual sentience. It could be argued that the entire planet – the entire universe even – is alive and has some sort of consciousness. But that isn’t the same as each blade of grass being aware of itself as an individual being. We KNOW that each animal IS aware of itself as an individual. It is illogical to continue to torture and kill animals – whom we KNOW are individually aware – just because plants have ‘some sort of consciousness.’ That makes no sense at all. Pick a few lettuce leaves and the plant makes more leaves. Cut the leg off a cow and she won’t grow another leg. That is a clue.

        • Pick a leg or an arm off a salamander and the salamander makes more limbs. Pull a potatoe out of the ground and that’s it, no more potatoes will grow.

          Great clue. Can you count to potatoe?

  1. Pingback: Catering to Fussy Non-Vegans | Vegan Rabbit

  2. Excellent post! Very perceptive, well written and argued with great spirit. There’s one more Fallacy that I would highlight here and that is Fallacy 5: Those who argue that plants are sentient feel compassion for plants. They never do. They never will. They eat plants, just as they eat animals. If they’re genuinely moved by scattered scientific studies that say plants may react to certain stimuli or use subtle means to communicate, then why aren’t they moved by far more striking signs of life from the animals they eat? If their concern stems from real compassion, then let them figure out a way to survive without consuming either. Good luck with that one.

    • Thank you for pointing out that fallacy! True, when non-vegans use the plant sentience argument they are nearing the end of their rope (made obvious by using arguments which incriminate themselves). If they really did care about plants then a fruitarian diet would be as close as someone could get to causing the least amount of harm. That and sitting in one spot, never moving around.

      Sometimes, when I call non-vegans out on this, they say something along the lines of “but I’M not the one who cares about not killing living things — YOU (the vegan) are”. What would your response be in that situation?

        • Good one, CQ. From there we can go into how if we consider ourselves as humans as having higher cognitive abilities (like many non-vegans seem to be so intent on pointing out), then what is the argument against using those abilities to make ethical choices?

  3. Great response, but there’s a few points I’ve used in this argument previously that you forgot to mention…..plants have evolved fruits & nuts specifically to be eaten, it is their entire reason for being & the only way they can reproduce, likewise grasses & many other plants do not die when consumed but grow back stronger & thicker than ever. Growing plants soaks up greenhouse gasses instead of creating them & eating plants is good for your health & helps cure diseases whereas eating meat & dairy is just bad for you & causes diabetes, cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, atherosclerosis etc…..

      • We can live a healthy life without needing to kill animals for food. Animals are beings who are capable of feeling and experiencing pain and joy — we too, are animals. Meat itself isn’t healthy, just certain things like iron and magnesium are. But these are things that are readily available in plant foods. If we can live a healthy life and get our nutrition from plant-sources, minus the fat, cholesterol, and cruelty present in animal foods, what is the ethical and nutritional reason not to?

        • “Meat itself isn’t healthy, just certain things like iron and magnesium are.”

          seriously, read that sentence again. that’s similar to saying vegetables are not healthy, just their nutrients.

          you lose all your credibility when you blindly say “meat is not healthy”. fact is, they are, and it’s how you consume it that makes it unhealthy, just like potatoes are healthy unless your diet consists of nothing but french fries.

          if you choose to be a vegan, vegetarian, omnivore, or carnivore, that’s fine, it’s your choice, but don’t deny facts.

          also, us human beings as animals are omnivores and our body is designed to consume meat and veggies, and that’s a fact.

          • I am a vegetarian, but I completely agree that the human digestive system and our teeth are designed to digest both meat and vegetables. We can survive on only a plant-based diet (with the added b-12 vitamin), but humans cannot survive on a meat only diet.

            We have canines AND molars. Carnivores have sharp teeth in the front to bite and hold, and their ‘molars’, which are also very sharp, are used for slicing. Herbivores only have flat molars, since they don’t have to worry about their food escaping, they use their front teeth like pruning sheers and their back teeth for grinding. Omnivores have a combination of both types.

            Anyway, I am the kind of vegetarian that doesn’t mind people that go fishing and eat what they catch, and fish is ONLY healthy (there is nothing unhealthy about fish), nor am I against people consuming meat if it isn’t coming from the horrific farms.

            If I hated human beings that chose to have an omnivorous diet (which is truly how we are designed) I’d have to hate all other omnivorous creatures for eating animals instead of vegetables. Even if we can ‘decide’ and animals don’t know better, many humans choose to include meat in their diet for the same reason other omnivorous animals do. It isn’t against nature to consume animals. It IS, however, against nature to breed them, pump them full of hormones, torture them, give them unfit living conditions, etc all for the sake of consumption!!!

            Stop trying to fight an extreme one-sighted fight, and fight the people that are really in the wrong.

  4. What about the fact it takes up to 17 times the plant material to feed an animal then it does to feed the vegan human animal directly? Cows and chickens don’t eat rocks and air, they eat copious amounts of PLANTS.

    • Animals don’t need to be treated better — they need to be treated with respect. Killing, oppressing and exploiting are not forms of showing respect.

      Please see my response to Aleksander Cerulean.

      • So you didn’t look at the links… cognitive bias in action?

        Plants have been shown to be able to recognize their siblings, feel pain (, anxiety and stress, can learn whom is a threat to them and whom is not, and are cognizant at least to some degree. While I wholeheartedly agree that animals need to be treated with respect (which is treating them better), one must also recognize and realize that all living creatures on this planet feel, and are cognizant to different degrees.

        Humankind as a whole only exists because of our past history of eating meat. You, me and everyone else would never have evolved to be able to type this on this computer if our ancestors did not eat meat. Research clearly shows that the only reason we as humans exist at all is because we ate meat…. now I understand wholly why one would choose to be vegetarian and/or vegan, as I once was myself, but to say that humans are not meant to eat meat is simply just not true. The preponderance of meat in the western diet is excessive, but some meat in the diet is natural, normal, and just the way the world works. One can treat animals with respect and dignity, as our native american ancestors did, and still eat meat. See the following articles:

        Eating Meat Made Us Human, Suggests New Skull Fossil:
        Fragments of a 1.5-million-year-old skull from a child recently found in Tanzania suggest early hominids weren’t just occasional carnivores but regular meat eaters, researchers say.

        The finding helps build the case that meat-eating helped the human lineage evolve large brains, scientists added.

        “I know this will sound awful to vegetarians, but meat made us human,” said researcher Manuel Domínguez-Rodrigo, an archaeologist at Complutense University in Madrid.

        Meat, Cooked Foods Needed for Early Human Brain
        Vegetarian, vegan and raw diets can be healthy — likely far healthier than the typical American diet. But to continue to call these diets “natural” for humans, in terms of evolution, is a bit of a stretch, according to two recent, independent studies.

        Eating meat and cooking food made us human, the studies suggest, enabling the brains of our prehuman ancestors to grow dramatically over a period of a few million years.

        Food For Thought: Meat-Based Diet Made Us Smarter
        Our earliest ancestors ate their food raw — fruit, leaves, maybe some nuts. When they ventured down onto land, they added things like underground tubers, roots and berries.

        It wasn’t a very high-calorie diet, so to get the energy you needed, you had to eat a lot and have a big gut to digest it all. But having a big gut has its drawbacks.

        “You can’t have a large brain and big guts at the same time,” explains Leslie Aiello, an anthropologist and director of the Wenner-Gren Foundation in New York City, which funds research on evolution. Digestion, she says, was the energy-hog of our primate ancestor’s body. The brain was the poor stepsister who got the leftovers. Until, that is, we discovered meat.

        “What we think is that this dietary change around 2.3 million years ago was one of the major significant factors in the evolution of our own species,” Aiello says.

        • No one is denying that plants are complex living creatures…but to claim that reacting to stimuli is the same as consciously feeling pain is incredibly assumptive, not to mention scientifically unfounded. A basic understanding of biology reveals that plants lack a nervous system and the electrical impulses that give animals sensation and consciousness. Could plants possibly have some ‘similar’ experience via chemical exchanges rather than electrical impulses? Well, I won’t rule it out — but it’s unlikely, and any supposed scientist who concludes otherwise needs some more biology lessons.

          Evolutionarily speaking meat may very well have helped our brains grow and all that jazz — true, but it wasn’t really anything inherent to meat, it was actually just an increase of calorie and nutrient consumption. That such calorie and nutrient-dense food was partially in the form of meat for our ancestors says more about anthropology than nutrition, and is quite frankly entirely irrelevant to modern times.

        • And the reason and type of meat homids ate and the reasons they did it might surprise you. Jane Goodall documented chimpanzees killing and consuming. But who they killed, how they did, why they did it and the manner in which it was consumed reveals so much more than the assumption that “they do it so meat is necessary” glance.

          Chimpanzees trap and kill other primates – not other species generally. Their focus is other primates due to real or perceived incursions into a troupe’s territory. When this happens, the males gang up on the “offender” (and this can certain be another chimp) and trap that animal and kill him/her.

          What comes next is a grizzly reminder that humans took this act to the next level of malevolence and domination: they eat the dead primate in front of its family/troupe as a warning and a display of dominance. The group consumption is a ritual, not a need. What that means is that Homo sapiens “gathering ’round” a carcass of a non-human animal is really just a social display of dominance, something we certainly do not “need” biologically. We have institutionalized this form of dominance through systematically domesticating other species – including human females – to “serve” a desire.

          Up until the late 1700′s, peoples of the Marquesas Islands were known to capture other humans and sell them in “meat markets” for human consumption (and they report that human, when cooked, is similar to swine flesh). They mostly always ate males, as females were assimilated. They were feared by their neighbors, and rightfully so.

          Noticing the pattern yet?

          • I often wonder if chimpanzees sometimes chase, trap, kill and eat other primates because they observed and learned the behavior from human primates engaged in the increasing “bush meat” trade. Probably difficult, if not impossible, to find a population of chimpanzees not exposed to this activity. Just a thought.

          • Chimps kill and eat other animal sources – insects for instance. Of course, insects don’t matter as much to us because they are not as easy to empathize with as say other mammals because they are less like us. Plants, being even less like us, may not “feel” in the same manner that we do. However, this does not mean they do not experience pain or suffering. They just don’t from our understanding of pain and suffering. We are different from plants. In fact, in many ways we are much less evolved. I don’t think that means we should stop eating them. I also don’t think this argument means we should never eat any animal-based products. I think the key to this is really to respect all of nature and understand our needs. When we set up an “us against them” scenario like the vegan against non-vegan, we create problems involving judgment and animosity. This is no different from religious conflicts where people fight because their beliefs clash. It is good to put forth different perspectives to encourage people to learn and grow. But they have to be willing to do so. For one group to try to force its beliefs on another group is just setting the stage for conflict.

            • That’s interesting. To you, a vegan telling a non-vegan to contemplate the pain and suffering they’re causing by their lifestyle is “forcing your beliefs on others”. But somehow when people who have been raised their entire lives and everything in their in entire culture from media to family reinforces the belief that eating animals is “normal”, meanwhile these people actually KILL for these beliefs (can’t eat animals unless they’re killed, fyi), is somehow to you not pushing your beliefs on others? And explain to me please how that is not similar to religion?

        • “Meat made us human, meat made us smarter” – I don’t even want to argue here , you provide plenty of references however what it used to be does not necessarily mean it has to stay like that forever. Correct me if I am wrong but humans are omnivores. If everyone stop eating meat would the humans as a species become less smart? I doubt it. We are 7 billion and the number is growing. It is unethically, immorally, unhealthy and most of all environmental degrading for this planet to try feeding everyone on a meat/dairy diet. Most importantly the cavemen did not have a choice, and did not reason is it ethical or moral to kill to eat. Today we have this choice and it has never been easier to stick to plant diet.

          • Very true. We have removed ourselves from the food chain by building grocery stores, being able to farm crops, living in heated/cooled houses with flushing toilets. For those of us fortunate enough to live with these luxuries, there is no excuse to make the unethical choice to eat animal products.

            Another good point you made: just because things are the way they are doesn’t mean that is the way they have to be. Imagine if people from 1,000 years ago believed in maintaining the status quo. Heck, even 500 years ago, 100 years ago or even 50 years ago! Many of us wouldn’t have the rights we are so fortunate to have if it weren’t for free-thinkers and doers who went against the grain and fought for what they knew in their heart was right.

            As a woman, I must pay respect to those people who fought for the rights I enjoy today. Oppression has always been fought for by people who fear change, who fear giving up some of their power so that others may enjoy freedom, and who fear that they may be guilty of actions which are immoral. So instead, they fight to justify their actions “the end justifies the means” (which is a fallacy) and seek to distance themselves from the injustices they are complicit in, and worse, attempt to minimize and discount the suffering they are causing by their own selfish actions. This isn’t just true of animal rights — this is true of every rights issue throughout history — every issue where one group is oppressed by another simply for being different. The oppressed are regarded as objects and reduced to a number (ear tags, “X head of cattle”, etc.), a euphemism (“beef”, “pork”, “meat”, “dairy”, rather than cow, pig, dead animal flesh, cow/goat/sheep mammary secretions etc.), and a commodity to be bought and sold.

          • “If everyone stop eating meat would the humans as a species become less smart?”

            true, but if we all stopped eating meat we all all would be sick and die quickly. humans cannot sustain on a vegan diet, that’s a fact.

            keep in mind that cavemen don’t have access to supplements so if they were to go vegan we won’t be here today.

        • Great points needarbell. Particularly like that you back up your claims with evidence. I find it quite entertaining that everyone thumbed you down, they hate it so much when someone posts an opinion that doesn’t reaffirm their beliefs. What exactly do they dislike about your post? That they hate the truth?

          • Did you actually read the post? Vegans kill fewer plants than non-vegans do by not filtering our nutrition through someone else’s digestive system. Furthermore, even if plants were hypothetically sentient, that wouldn’t somehow render animals non-sentient. You are guilty of using the tu quoque logical fallacy.

            I find it quite entertaining that everyone who disagrees with my post doesn’t seem to have read/understood it, they hate it so much when someone writes a post that doesn’t reaffirm their beliefs. What exactly do you dislike about my post? That you hate the truth?

        • Speaking of cognitive bias,

          It’s really nice how you only picked non-primary sources that back up the point of view you clearly hold so dear. If you were to actually look at the literature (not the pop culture mass media representations of it) you would know that the “eating meat made us human” idea has by no means been unequivocally accepted as truth at this point. As many researchers maintain it was the act of cooking that gave us the caloric density needed to increase brain size.

          So it seems your single biggest claim you’ve spent the majority of your address on, is not scientific fact, but speculation. At this point at least. Perhaps in the future the scientific community will reach a consensus on the topic but they are not there yet.

          Regarding plants responding to stimuli, this was addressed in the article. Yes, they respond to stimuli. The author isn’t arguing against that. Is that response indicative of sentience? That is the question and the current answer according to everything we know at this point, is no. Again, the entire argument you’ve proposed is based on what is currently speculation. Maybe in the future we’ll see that yes, eating a carrot is exactly the same as bludgeoning an infant cow in the head with a hammer. And then we’ll really have to think long and hard about what to do. But guess what? The answer won’t be to eat more animals. Simple math tells us that that would kill more of those thinking feeling plants, as covered in the article.

          I remember reading an article some years ago where scientists had shown they were able to magically replicate a molecule of DNA from one vial to another simply by applying some radiation to the first. Magical instant cloning. A very attractive idea indeed! But in case you haven’t noticed, it hasn’t since been included in what is considered legitimate science. “A study was done showing… ” in a popular science magazine does not equate to something being a legitimate scientific concept. There is a long line of questioning, reproducing, and validating before anything becomes accepted.

          So again, nice speculation, but based on what we currently know, animals are sentient, plants are not. You can criticize me for basing such a major personal decision on the current state of science, but for me it’s the logical thing to do. I’m not worrying about what the drywall feels when I knock down a wall, or crying for my bicycle tire when it gets a crack in it. Hey, maybe someday, but not today.

          • Thank you for your very logical and concise response. I loved this:

            “Maybe in the future we’ll see that yes, eating a carrot is exactly the same as bludgeoning an infant cow in the head with a hammer. And then we’ll really have to think long and hard about what to do. But guess what? The answer won’t be to eat more animals.”

            I looks like Nedarbeel went google-crazy and decided to copy and paste everything the internet has to offer about “plants have feelings too!” (and it conveniently fit in one tiny comment), which you have pointed out is based on speculation, not scientific fact.

      • I’ll go one step further: non-human animals deserve liberation from enslavement by humans, just as other humans in the past needed liberation from the humans who enslaved them. We must stop conceptualizing anything we see or encounter as “abuseable” just because we ourselves aren’t the ones being victimized. In short, if you don’t want it done to you, don’t do it to others – and that means other animals as well.

  5. May I also add that the reason fruits and other plants have spread all over the world, is because of their ingenious way of propagating by leaving seed, hence they are meant to be eaten to spread themselves and grow. (this is my weird way of looking at it anyway)

    • Exactly, Marty. Plants develop fruits that surround a seed in the hopes that a passing animal or even large insect will carry, ingest, and “drop” that seed and aid in propagation. They plant doesn’t die and isn’t harmed in the process, and it’s why they’ve evolved the fruit to begin with!

  6. Hej Vegan Rabbit. I am wondering if you have watched this documentary ” The secret life of plants” . The plants lack nervous system, can’t feel pain etc…but they have conscious or at least some sort of awareness according to the movie. Personally I find this amazing.

    • Thank you for sharing. It’s a very interesting film. The thing is, unless we plan on eating rocks or becoming breatharians, we’re going to have to eat something to survive. Our bodies are suited toward a plant-based diet. While eating a diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes, our bodies thrive. (Also, as Andrew Stone and Marty Heazelwood pointed out, certain plants, such as fruits, are supposed to be eaten, so that their seeds can travel and take root farther than if they had just fallen from the tree, which helps grow the population of that species of tree.)

      If we were lions, our bodies would thrive on meat. Heart disease wouldn’t be a leading cause of death, as excess cholesterol and saturated fats wouldn’t be a problem. It may sound strange to hear a vegan say that we can’t fault lions for eating animals. They are simply doing what comes natural to them.

      But just the same, we can’t fault humans for eating plants, as eating plants comes natural to us. We can, however, fault humans for eating animals because:

      1) Our bodies do not require meat to survive or thrive (I, and all vegans are evidence of this)

      2) We, as humans pride ourselves on our higher cognitive ability and must therefore hold ourselves to a higher standard by subjecting our choices to the influence of morality and ethics. This is why we have laws which state not to kill or be violent toward one another — because we recognize that violence is immoral. Animals have no such laws because they don’t base their choices on ethics as humans do.

      Unfortunately, no matter how hard we try, we must accept the fact that we don’t live in a perfect world. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do our best to make it as close to perfect as we can. After all, just because we can’t help end violence everywhere, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to help end violence in our own lives to the best of our ability.

      If you believe that plants feel anything that can be described as “pain”, then your first step to eliminating your involvement in causing it is to stop eating animals because as I pointed out in this post, the animals consumed by humans eat more plants than humans do.

      • no hate, please. but this comment “It may sound strange to hear a vegan say that we can’t fault lions for eating animals. They are simply doing what comes natural to them.”. why would it be strange to hear a vegan say this? i think it is the ONLY thing possible of saying about lions. they’re carnivores, they can’t be vegans, they do not have a choice so we can’t blame the lion for eating animals. it would be so stupid to do so. and if there are vegans that blame lions for eating animals… my gosh, i am so sorry for those people, because they’re very VERY ignorant.

        other than that… great post. i agree completely and will use your arguments to refute what some stupid people say to me like: “you should be eating rocks because you’re slaughtering plants” etc.

        • I agree with you. I said that because non-vegans are often confused about certain things vegans say and do. For instance, when I tell non-vegans how much I used to love eating meat and cheese, how I ate it every day and LOVED it, they are shocked to hear those words coming out of a vegan’s mouth.

          Of course, I am telling non-vegans this because I want them to understand that despite my love of the flavor of animal products, I still made the ethical choice to go vegan because I recognized that contributing to the exploitation of animals is absolutely fundamentally wrong. I tell them this to show them that if I can do it, anyone can, and that most vegans started out exactly where they are, as meat eaters.

          This is why I have to say “it might sound strange to you”, because to many non-vegans, hearing a vegan say “we can’t fault lions for killing animals” does sound strange, simply because it’s coming from a vegan and often don’t understand the ethical and biological differences between a lion eating animals and a human eating animals.

        • Also, with lions tigers, leopards, and cats in general, they need a certain protein that can only be found in meat. Of course, this isn’t the same for humans. What many non-vegans don’t understand is the obvious fact that that carnivorous animals hunt and kill to SURVIVE, and humans hunt and kill for PLEASURE. I’m sorry I don’t have textual evidence for this; I had just read it and I’ve now forgotten the source. But I do agree with your comment!

  7. I might be viewed as a utilitarian in this aspect but my reasoning is that even *if* plants were sentient (but I don’t believe there’s enough evidence to say they are) no ideology would be taken seriously if in it’s practice it would cause human extinction. No “healthy” diet would lead to the annihilation of a species. Humans MUST eat plants in order to live. The same certainly can’t be said about animal flesh.

    A quick way to tell the difference between plants and animals? Invite some of your neighbors over for a day of trimming hedges and bushes. Ask another group to come witness a pig’s death before he’s put on the spit. My guess is you’re going to have a top-notched manicured landscape! ;)

    Great piece Vegan Rabbit – You laid out the important points just right!

      • I find it rather ironic that your link is to a web page that is supposedly about “reason, nature, free thought, liberty and respect” when your unimaginatively moronic comment is hardly a reflection on any of those things. Would you mind explaining this inconsistency for us?

        • Meat eaters are by and large unable to engage in a genuine conversation about eating animals. For if they tried, they would have no real points to make other than, “I like the taste”. It’s a valid point to be sure, but of course doesn’t hold up against the points against eating animals that a vegan would typically bring up. Such lack of ability for real discussion is the reasoning behind these comments. This is the conclusion I’ve come to at least.

          I will say that I’m still perplexed as to how to respond. I have at one point been questioned about my lack of response to a “funny” facebook comment and all I could think of was, “What type of response exactly were you hoping for?” Maybe they’re baiting and hoping to get the “angry vegan” to come out? Or they’re “trying to be funny”, but of course they have to know that as a vegan, you wouldn’t find that funny. So I guess it comes down to trying to get a laugh out of others at your expense? I’ve left asinine comments like that up on facebook posts (had considered deleting them, but didn’t) and have had a couple that ended up being deleted by the posters. I have to believe they eventually thought it through and felt embarrassed by their own actions. Since the above was probably posted by a stranger, I doubt they’ll feel embarrassed. In my case they were family and close friends. I had gone through several snarky and clever responses in my mind, but when I really reflected on it I had settled on the most honest response being “This hurt my feelings.” Of course I’m never going to post that on facebook! But it’s the truth. If I had posted something about Michael Vick, or about the military rape issue, or any number of other issues that involve the suffering of sentient beings, would they have made an analogous comment? Would my own family and friends have made fun of me? Because of course they’re not trying to start a genuine dialog about animals, it’s simply them trying to make fun of me. It unfortunately comes out sounding really self-pitying, but it’s just the conclusion I come to when I try to look at the situation objectively.

          • It’s all about image. It harkens back to grade-school… kids playing in the yard picking on the kid who is just a little different than the rest. The other kids side with the bullies so they won’t be next in line to be ostracized and seen as “un-cool”. This is why when people see a Facebook post about Michael Vick they say “He’s evil! How could he do those things to those poor dogs?!”. They know that this is the general consensus on the subject and would hate to make themselves look like a calloused ass by saying anything nice in his defense. (Carnism plays a role here as well.) So when they see someone posting something on Facebook about veganism or animal rights, they are quick to jump on that person because it is currently not the belief held by the majority than all animals are deserving of fair treatment, just like dogs, cats and humans.

            I think the deepest root of the reason why people lash out at vegans for simply speaking the truth is because the truth makes the person lashing out feel uncomfortable and ashamed. Who goes around wanting to knowingly inflict pain and suffering on other beings, other than serial killers and psychopaths? So they try to make us feel uncomfortable and ashamed so they won’t have to. It’s rule No.1 in the Bully Handbook. It states “If you hate yourself, make someone else hate themselves and you’ll be happy”. What a sad and childish way to live a life.

            Furthermore, as a feminist, I can’t ignore the obvious sexism involved in the bullying of vegans by non-vegans. Emotion, sensitivity and compassion are viewed as “feminine” traits by society. In contrast, toughness, anger and violence are viewed as “masculine” traits by society (“machismo”). Because we live in a patriarchal society, “feminine” traits are considered weak and inferior to “masculine” traits. Veganism is based on traits considered “feminine” and is therefore considered weak and inferior to meat-eating, which is considered “masculine”.

            This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes:

            “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

            • It is so untrue that you can’t engage meat eaters in conversation. Meat eaters are in fact more open than we give them credit for. And by the way, weren’t we all meat eaters once? I have had great conversation with meat eaters during vegan outreach. It’s all a matter of communication. If you don’t communicate properly, of course they may not listen. I need to organize a vegan communication Bootcamp lol.

              • You’re right, I should have been more specific. The meat-eaters that leave or speak comments such as the one above are incapable of having a rational discussion. Though unfortunately, in my experience, it often feels like these types of people are the majority. Of course we have to take into account that often the people that are jerks are the loudest.

                There is an automatic defensiveness that arises often when someone even realizes you’re vegan. Recently I had someone else say to someone else that “She’s vegan” (I didn’t bring it up) and had to endure an hour long rant about how idiotic veganism is. One thing he “explained” to me was how, point of fact, yes, simply being vegan is offensive. It doesn’t matter if I mention it or say anything about it. If they happen to notice what I’m *not eating*, *I* am being offensive.That was eye-opening to say the least. Of course the perhaps polite, logical meat eaters in the room wouldn’t have been able to get a word in during this rant. But thank you for the reminder of this phenomenon. It’s important not to close ourselves off and judge others, just as we wish others to do for us.

                • Here’s another approach we might try. I noticed before I became vegan that I was the one in my family most likely to tease my vegetarian nephew about his food choices. Maybe we can point out to the people making “humorous” comments that they are likely to become vegans soon, because they are obviously thinking a lot about it! (Who knows – it might even be true!!)

              • Veronique, I think Kate is referring to the meat-eating trolls who have absolutely no desire to have an intelligent conversation (family and friends can become trolls too, btw). I know you have encountered these types of people in your activism, as anyone who has done enough outreach has. Just because someone meets a person like this doesn’t mean they are not an effective communicator. I think Kate has shown herself to be very articulate.

                Of course, even trolls can be receptive (though they may not intend to be). Through discussions with vegans they can get information that makes them think, even while shouting/posting comments like “BACON!” and “CANINES!” repeatedly. But then you get those people who don’t seem to listen/read what you’re saying and are only paying attention to what they’re going to say next. :/

                • Yup, those retracted comments (along the lines of “mmmm _______” insert whatever animal was in the photo) give me a bit of hope.

                  I always feel torn: do I “stand up” for my beliefs? Am I betraying the voiceless by not responding to this? But I always struggle with how to respond without feeding that hostility. Without saying anything that could be construed as snarky and giving them a reason to be snarky back. And of course leaving me to be seen as the humorless and aggressive vegan.

                  I think my lack of response might give them the silence needed to really reflect on what I posted and how they responded, perhaps the reason they responded the way they did.

                  This thread has however reminded me of the incredible patience and thoughtfulness we must very mindfully practice when faced with these situations. If this is the person’s first time interacting with a vegan, that is an incredible responsibility on our parts to try to do it right. Whatever that means :)

                • I think you should respond, depending on the situation. If it’s someone you know personally, it might be worthwhile to discuss your concern with them. Say something informative and honest. For example, you post a picture of a piglet saying “Love animals, don’t eat them” and someone writes “mmmmm bacon!”. A good response would be something like “I wonder why you felt the inclination to make such a calloused remark on a photo of an innocent creature who has done nothing to you. You are aware that I am vegan and that this kind of remark is neither cute nor funny to me? Are your intentions malicious or did you just make an honest mistake in judgement in posting that comment? I was under the impression that we were friends. Was I wrong?”.

            • Re: the sexism issue, yes. I’ve never thought it through myself that articulately, but yes.

              Now personally, I’ll admit I’ve often thought myself, my gosh, is there anything sexier than a vegan man? A man who is “comfortable enough with his own masculinity” as the phrase goes, to truly think for himself, to truly think about and take responsibility for the consequences of his own actions, and live according to his own morals, despite overwhelming pressure from society? Lol, I’ll admit I have found myself attracted to men that I previously had no interest in, upon finding out they were vegan :)

              I have often reflected on what you say in your second paragraph. And this is what gives me hope. Everyone IS vegan! They just don’t realize it. All it takes is honesty with oneself. As you say, who really hates animals? That’s what they always say about serial killers 1) they wet the bed, and 2) they tortured animals. Of course there are all sorts of mental gymnastics people go through to decide that torturing certain animals is okay, but that’s what it takes, mental gymnastics- that frankly, can’t be defended. The overall pattern is one we’ve seen so many times in history, and I have confidence that the truth will eventually be exposed.

  8. I am vegetarian myself, soon to become vegan and by posting the link to the movie I just wanted to point out what scientists have been researching on when it comes to plants. I am far from having a guilty conscious for eating plants. It would be great if one day we all become breatharians or sun gazers but until then I am relying on a plant diet :)
    As for those who eat meat and say we are plant murderers, you have written enough of arguments in our defense.

    • Let us know when you make the leap from “v” to “V” and we’ll celebrate with you, Aleksander.

      As long as your motive is your heart for animals and not simply your heart health, you’ll experience the most marvelous feeling of joy, freedom, and even dominion (over false traits like self-justification, apathy, appetite, pride, and so on).

      In fact, you’ll wonder what took you so long!

      Believe me, you’ll have zero regrets, thanks to Tofurky and Tofutti and all the other amazing processed-food producers (not to mention the original Producer of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, grains, herbs and other gifts found in the ground).

  9. no hate, please. but this comment “It may sound strange to hear a vegan say that we can’t fault lions for eating animals. They are simply doing what comes natural to them.”. why would it be strange to hear a vegan say this? i think it is the ONLY thing possible of saying about lions. they’re carnivores, they can’t be vegans, they do not have a choice so we can’t blame the lion for eating animals. it would be so stupid to do so. and if there are vegans that blame lions for eating animals… my gosh, i am so sorry for those people, because they’re very VERY ignorant.

    other than that… great post. i agree completely and will use your arguments to refute what some stupid people say to me like: “you should be eating rocks because you’re slaughtering plants” etc.

  10. Pingback: Being Vegan Is Lame Now, I Quit | Vegan Rabbit

  11. Pingback: People For the Ethical Treatment of Plants: 4 Reasons Why the “Plant Sentience” Argument Doesn’t Work | Animals Deserve to Live

  12. Pingback: People For the Ethical Treatment of Plants: 4 Reasons Why the “Plant Sentience” Argument Doesn’t Work | mynaturalway

  13. Kara’s brilliant essay inspired my own dubbing the “plants feel pain” argument as a logical fallacy: “ad plantarum” literally “to plants”. When a meat eater supposes that eating a soybean is the same as throwing a puppy into a wood mulcher, he has automatically lost the argument. Game Over. Thanks For Playing.

    My essay exposes the lie meat eaters tell themselves and others — that they have no other choice but to eat meat. Yeah, sorry, not buying. Denial of animal sentience does not make animals less sentient, nor does it mean plants suddenly have muscle memory (they don’t) or pain receptors. I think I speak for both Kara and myself when I say I have had enough lies. People who eat animals have officially run out of rocks to hide under — you cannot defend the indefensible.

  14. Pingback: The Plant Murder vs. Animal Murder Experiment | Vegan Rabbit

  15. Pingback: 4 Reasons Why the “Plant Sentience” Argument Doesn’t Work | Our Compass

  16. Brilliant !! One of the best articles ever read, I accept ro be “judged” by fruitarians, the others can’t. Shared and twitted, I hope everybody reads


  18. I don’t find this article convincing because of the very fact that presumption that “Plants are not truly sentient” is dubious. The remaining three points are not convincing arguments in this debate and are not central to the debate so can be dismissed.

    The way you define sentience is open to a lot of debate. And if you are worried about animals feeling pain and plants cannot can be sorted out with a simple shot of anaesthetic.

    • I think you should re-read the above post because it seems like you missed a few things. If you fully comprehended the post you wouldn’t be making some of the points you attempted to make.

      First of all, regardless of whether you believe plants are sentient on some level, vegans are responsible for fewer plant deaths than non-vegans are simply because we are eating lower on the food chain (cows eat plants — lots of plants — about 45 pounds of plants per day, whereas an average human eats around 5 pounds of food).

      Second of all, even if plants were sentient (entertaining this idea purely for conversational purposes), it still wouldn’t have any bearing on the sentience of animals. Animals are still sentient regardless of the existence or nonexistence of plant sentience.

      Short of killing ourselves and thus not contributing to any death whatsoever other than our own, the lifestyle which does the least harm to animals and plants combined is the lifestyle of a vegan.

      Lastly anesthetic doesn’t stop an animal from being slaughtered. Pain and slaughter of animals are unnecessary. I and every other vegan on this earth are living proof of this fact.

  19. Anything that grows has a conscious. Plants, fungi, moss all feel, breathe, communicate and react to their environments. this is scinetific fact. The are living organisms that are way more sophisticated than what modern science implies and has up to date.The argument that “we as humans are not suited for animal consumption” is an arguement that is not productive in selling me on become a vegan. Going to the bathroom for instance modern man uses toilets but early Human beings were meant to sit down monkey style straight onto the ground with our knees level with our chest to allow smooth er and better depositing of waste (feces). We are meant to be crapping straight on the floor or dugged holes… but I bet your not going to run and throw your toilet out now are you? Choosing to consume only plants is more of a personal choice like religion can be. thats great you feel passion about it and the suffering of the animals but if you think replacing the death and suffering of animals by transferring that energy onto plants its the wrong answer. the problem isnt necessarily the diet and eating habits. The problem is the structure of society economically, legislatively, industrially, commercially, and socially. You can make a real difference if you promoted a community garden than to hate on and make fun of meaters. instead of buying a $20+ Rib roast it would be economically effecient to purchase some zucchinis, beans, & and maybe a sweet potatoes and I’m sure you wont go over $20. I would like to see vegans use arguements like this and also be a bit more understanding when being passionate about the issue. I understand its inhumane but I also recognize the trends of industry are inhumane when the ysell us products as they cater to patrons specifically in food comsumption.Im worried about corporations gripping the vegan industry and Im sure its got its finger wrapped around already.

    • Either you didn’t read the post or your reading comprehension needs some fine tuning because I have already refuted much of what you have said in my post. You’re welcome.

  20. All I got from this; you’re trying to put down those that have different viewpoints than you and to assert your “dominance” through guilting others into believing you’re better than them or “more superior” because you choose to eat “non-sentient” beings over animals. Have you yourself personally done the research, tests, and studies to determine this as fact? No, you read something someone else wrote. Keep your opinions to yourself when they’re in regard to others, because frankly you’re only exacerbating the problem by causing others to feel lesser than you (aka hurting their feelings). We’re all equal regardless of what we eat. Respect the planet.

  21. “In conclusion, because all living creatures must eat to survive, we must choose foods which cause the least amount of harm possible.” That is the perfect definition of Ahimsa.It doesn’t necessarily equate to Non-violence but treading on the path which causes the least amount of damage or harm.

  22. Pingback: Master List Of Vegan Info | The Legacy Of Pythagoras

  23. The PETP argument is simply highlighting the craziness of the vegetarian belief that animals are better then plants. You seem to take for granted that Animals have sentience and are thus better, but you have no logic to support that sentience is superior in any way. Vegetarians are simply selectively killing based one what they see as most similar to them. Disproportionately and intentionally killing plants because they seem “unequal.”
    This article also rests on the definition of murder, claiming that “non-vegans kill more plants than vegans do.” The difference between vegan and non-vegan killing of plants is intention. By not making a conscious decision about my food sources and simply fulfilling my role as a member of an ecosystem to eat whatever is easiest for me to obtain, I am not committing murder as I would as a conscious vegan. Even if more plant deaths are caused by my eating habits, vegan killing is a conscious decision to kill plants because they are not animals.Obviously, that is a hate crime and murder.

  24. You know what both sides of this debate can Just shut the hell up. Seriously, do what you wish to do. If you believe eating meat is wrong, fine I couldn’t care less. Same thing the other way. But I swear if I have to wait to eat my bacon cheeseburger with extra bacon because I know that the vegan/PETA/anti-agricultural lobbyist group giving a presentation on their crap. I will eat loudly and in the most obnoxious way possible because I don’t give a flying fadoodle. And I will deliberately offend you just to see your jimmies rustled. AND I’M GONNA LAUGH. Same thing vice versa if I were vegan of course. Just both of you stop shoving this crap down each Other’s throats. Eat what you want to eat. End of coment

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