TDIV Q&A: I hear vegetarians mention animal suffering but don't plants feel pain too?

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Question: Do plants feel pain?

While there is some evidence to support the idea that plants can react to certain forms of stimuli, nothing to date has conclusively proven that they have the capacity to experience pain. No plant in nature has yet been discovered to have a complex nervous system anything like the one found in animals. Yet, despite the lacking evidence, this argument is often used against vegetarians to dismiss their chosen lifestyle as hypocritical and violent.

Still, let's pretend for a moment that plants do experience pain. What then would be proven? Would this justify harming animals? The underlying logic seems to be: "I might be doing something wrong, but so are you!", but should two wrongs make a right? If plants did feel pain, it would not make inflicting such suffering on animals any more justifiable.

We know for a fact that animals -- particularly the ones consumed by humans -- are fully capable of suffering. There is no controversy. Chickens, cows, pigs, crustaceans, and fish all experience agony when they are subjected to torturous conditions.

In short, animals are sentient; plants are not. Animals can experience pain, pleasure, and various emotions, all of which requires a nervous system not found in plants.

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Jonathan Reynolds
Jonathan is a freelance writer and blogger residing in upstate New York.


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