There has been a lot of coverage of veganism in the major media recently–Jonathen Safran Foer–bears much of the credit for this: And so, it was probably just a matter of time before we saw desperate and silly self-justification start to be printed. I was unprepared for seeing one of the silliest arguments that I have seen in the New York Times op-ed pages.
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.
I take it that her point is that there is a moral fault in eating plants. This is because plants are sophisticated and have responses to the world around them. Of course, these are not the reasons that anyone thinks that animals are morally significant and our use of them for food is a moral fault in the circumstances in which most people (in the West at least) consume animals.
Perhaps, I wouldn't have a problem with a form of this argument–there are many interesting biocentric ethical positions, which hold that non-sentient living things have interests in a morally significant sense. But, when this argument is deployed to create a moral equivalence between harvesting grain and the slaughter of sentient animals for non-necessary purposes, we end up with this twaddle bent, it seems, on scoring cheaply a clearer moral conscience.