The Vegan Trap?: Plant Sentience Continued


I’m intrigued by the frequency and intensity of the “plants have feelings, too” argument. (Take a moment and check out the generally thoughtful responses to my last post.) The implication behind many of the “plant sentience” arguments seems to be that if plants are sentient then vegans are in trouble because vegans are drawing a false distinction between plants and animals. I see the matter differently. The “plants have feelings, too” argument is, ipso facto, an acknowledgement that animals have feelings as well. That’s an excellent start. From this point, assuming the (unlikely) possibility that plants are conscious beings, the vegan can start to ask some verifiable questions about neurological complexity and evolutionary history. Without going into the issue in any depth, it strikes me as safe to say that the sort of consciousness that humans conventionally value as morally relevant is shared by the pig, cow, and even chicken more then the dandelion, pussy willow, or venus flytrap. I would think the vast majority of “plants have feelings, too” advocates would agree with this distinction. Thus, if you believe that a) humans must eat to live, and b) that we should eat in a way that reduces suffering as much as realistically possible, then the plant sentience line of attack against the vegan loses its power. The vegan continues to eat in a way that is healthy, environmentally sound, and minimizes suffering.


About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

3 Responses to The Vegan Trap?: Plant Sentience Continued

  1. Tim says:

    For sure, let’s see which being attempts to run away from the knife/gun/club, and which does not, then we’ll know which is derived from violence and which is not.

  2. Pingback: News for October 3, 2011 : From A to Vegan

  3. Pingback: Vegan Bites: MoFo, Candy and more

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