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Do plants feel pain or sufferings
Posted By Sarin on Mar 31, 2013     RSS Feeds     Latest Hinduism news
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A year ago, I wrote an article on why human are naturally herbivores ? Though no one objected to this article at my site, in other forums, many meat eaters were not satisfied with my article and wrote comments like humans are omnivores; even plants have life etc etc without any evidences. I will write one more article why human are naturally herbivores even though the above link is sufficient to justify my claims. In this article, we will refute one such comment which says even plants feel pain and sufferings.
Some meat eaters, who are not able to resist their consumption of meat, poke all vegans and vegetarians by saying bullshit like plants feel pains; plants suffers like animals etc. Some meat eaters come up with stories like a farmer used a device to hear up the ultrasonic screaming or crying of plants which the humans cannot hear. Since there is no ethical reason left to justify their act of eating meat, they come up with such foolish stories, logic and conclusions. In this article, we will see that all such stories are purely hypothetical and there is no evidence to prove that plants feel pain.  
Why humans and animals experience pain?
A simple definition of pain would be a negative sensation experienced while suffering from some sort of physical injury. Whenever a cut or injury happens, specialized sensors cells in our nervous system called “nociceptors” sends pain signals to the brain. Depending upon the signal received from the brain, our response could be conscious (Sticking your hand on an iron as long as you dare) or unconscious (pulling off your hand from a hot vessel).  

Human nervous system

All the physicians, Psychologists, and neurobiologists have come to the common conclusion that suffering is subjective in nature and are situated in the prefrontal cortex while pain centers are located deep within the human brain. According to International Association for the Study of Pain, pain can be defined as “an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage, or described in terms of such damage.”  
Why plants can’t feel pain?
First of all, plants do not have pain receptors that can experience negative stimulation. Secondly, they lack brain and nervous system to analyze and feel/experience the pain like humans/animals do. In the absence of brain and nervous system and as per the definition of pain stated above, plants do not feel pain or sufferings. Hypothetically, compare plant to a human who does not have brain. If you cut hand or leg of such a human, he will not feel it nor will he know that he was amputated because he does not have a brain that can signal out pain or sufferings.  If plants feel pain, then there would have been no difference between Vegetarianism and Non Vegetarianism... Agriculture and farming would be a sinful activity.
Then what happens when the plant is cut?
On being cut, plants activate their repair system by signaling out molecules of the body to churn out necessary proteins to reproduce the portion that was attacked by predators.  When stressed or injured, plants release a chemical called ethylene that step up the process of increasing cell growth or take other similar measures to reproduce the lost portion of the body.

Cut plants and it will grow more

What about plants that reacts to dangers?
There are some plants which respond rapidly if they are cut or sliced, though in a way difficult for a man to apprehend. When a plant(only for few species) is cut or sliced, its body releases a volatile chemical which informs other nearby plants to step up their chemical defenses and other defenses(like expose thorns, releasing poisonous chemicals, stinging hairs etc) against the predators/ herbivores that may cause damage to them. For Ex: Corn plants when attacked by caterpillar’s releases a chemical which attracts wasps.  These wasps eat up all the caterpillars. Lima beans when attacked by spider release the chemical which changes the taste of its beans thus making it less delicious for the spider. This chemical spreads up in the air to warn out other lima beans plants to bolster up their defense system against the attack of the spiders.  

Plants sense human intentions

Also, not all plants react. I have two parrots that I keep regularly near tulsi plant. Every day, these clever parrots move their beak outside the cage to eat the leaves of tulsi plants. I never saw the sacred tulsi plants taking some defensive action. On the contrary, new leaves grow up every day so that my parrots can eat it the next day. I guess plants are happy to share their fruits/ leaves to all other living beings. Plants are generous living beings, the fact non-vegetarians finds hard to digest.
But plants have life and are conscious?
Plants were there thousands of million years before than animals. They have defended themselves with modified sharp edge leaves, thorns, spikes, poisonous chemicals, toxins and communications with other plants.  

Different species of plants
  
No doubt that the plants have life. So do the bacteria and all micro organisms. Even If we don't drink or eat nothing at all, defense system in our body internally kills millions of germs every second. Living without absolute non-killing is not possible but the ethical point here is about the unnecessary pain, suffering and torture of innocent living beings.
Doesn’t consciousness mean plants can feel pain?
A plant reacts to a stimuli, light or touch. For ex: sunflower has the ability of tracking sun across the sky and moves their flowers towards sunlight. Roots search for minerals/waters in the soil and grow toward more mineralized soil. Trees shift nitrogen towards their leaves for the process of photosynthesis. If you poke a stem of a plant every day, you will see that the stem will start growing thicker and thicker. This is a pure survival instinct and does not in anyways indicate pain or sufferings. These examples show that plants exhibit high level of consciousness and react defensively but in no way indicate pain or sufferings. This reaction is like humans running for shelter during violence/stampede/freezing etc so as to avoid trouble. Plants are conscious living beings and have reflexes but since they lack a distributed nervous system and brain, they have no neurons to carry pain signals and hence their consciousness neither reflects pain nor sufferings.  Since they are conscious, they react to sounds, sights, smells and changing environment outside. Since their reactions are generated in the absence of the brain, their consciousness is at a different level compared to consciousness of humans and animals. Some reacts more while some react less but none of them suffers pain. Plants lack brains, nerve, hormones, and other structures necessary to experience pain.

They lack the feature of moving away from predators, an evolutionary trait linked with the ability to feel pain. 

Still, I am finding hard to believe
Ok, let me explain you with some examples. Plants react not only to stimuli but also to music, touch, sounds etc. Scientists are not the first to say this. In srimad bhagavatam, there is a full chapter on how trees danced and blossomed to sweet divine music of lord Krishna. Whatever I am explaining here scientifically, all this concepts can be found spiritually in the chapters of srimad bhagavatam, written millenniums of years ago. The point is that reacting to stimuli does not mean they feel pain. Even a thermostat strip (non living entity) reacts to heat by bending. Chemicals when combined with each other undergo a strange reaction. Does that mean they have pain? Even water responds to music and sounds. Does that mean water also feels pain? Will you stop drinking water just because it responds to touch, music or sound?  


Consciousness in water

Can you explain me with illustrations?
Plants don’t have a face to indicate us if they are suffering with pain. When you pluck a leaf/fruit/flower or cut/slice a trunk, a plant neither shouts nor cries out. It seems plants don’t mind being cut or pluck as it has the characteristic of growing back again. Plants don’t have eyes that cry with pain, or mouths that screams in sufferings or feet’s to run away from predators, or mothers who grieve for their children,  or bloods that gushes out when you cut them. Like a chicken runs around without its head, plants sliced out don’t struggle or show any reaction, at least as perceived by human eye and ears. Alternatively, separate a calf from a cow and you shall see pain in them. A cow does not give milk (or give very less milk) when she is separated from her calf or her calf is killed and vice versa. This is real suffering and pain.

Cow grieving in pain to love her calf separated by fence

Why should I eat plants and not animals?
Well, eating plants is beneficial in all aspects- Biologically, naturally and spiritually. However, being a vegan for spiritual purpose will itself become a very big topic. So, I will explain only the natural and biological advantages of being a vegan. Fruit and seeds of a plant are meant to be separated from its parent plant so that it grows into a new plant.  Nature created fruits so that the animals eat them and the seeds thrown away by them become new plants. Harvesting seeds of a single fruit can regenerate many plants.
Is this the case when you eat corpses of animals? Does cow regenerate its limbs when you cut them? Does eating a chicken provide thousand of new chickens to eat? By eating or killing animals, you are ending natural cycle of life. You are violating the laws of nature by infringing on another living beings freedom, torturing and killing it.
Even if someone believes that plants feel pain then also it is better to eat plants because their pain is not perceived by our eyes and ears whereas the pain and suffering of an animal is clearly visible. To all the non vegetarians out there who still believe that animals feel pain than also they should eat plants since the meat you will be eating, itself has ate many plants to survive. Though the figure may vary, an animal (you eat for living) has itself eaten ten times more plants than a vegan eats for same amount of living.  
Domesticating animals is equivalent to slavery?
Recently, I saw English movie ‘Lincoln’ which is about slavery of black peoples. Many of the white Americans felt that slavery and genocide of black peoples, whom god has created unequal, are justified. Other than President Lincoln and his wise supporters, other white Americans never understood the pain and sufferings of black peoples.  It’s the same case here. Meat eaters are not wise enough to understand the pain and sufferings of innocent animals.  Slavery, torture and cruelty of animals are no way a human quality.  


Slavery of cow in domesticated farming and slaughter houses

Message to readers
Plants have consciousness does not removes the assertion that eating meat is murder. Either you accept a fact that meat eaters(who tortures and kills animals instead of waiting for natural death of animal) are murderers or you treat all living beings wisely and become a responsible consumer of our natural world. Do what seems righteous to you but don’t try to mock/fool your vegetarian brothers. "Plants are alive too!" is the ridiculous argument of foolish meat-eaters. Hey meat eaters, don’t talk such nonsense and debate in a logical, scientific manner?

It’s the meat eaters who have fooled you by enveloping a system that allows you to eat meat. If you really wanna eat meat then hunt down the wild animal that enjoys freedom than to torture domestic animals by injecting drugs to increase fat, giving less food, separating them from their kids etc thereby making their life a hell.  
Ending this article with some quotes  
"To become vegetarian is to step into the stream which leads to nirvana" - Gautama Buddha
Man’s structure, external and internal, compared with that of the other animals, shows that fruit and succulent vegetables constitute his natural food.” ---- Swedish scientist Karl von Linne.
Conclusion
Meat eaters, who are not able to control their sensual desires, will not think twice before fooling anyone or telling a lie to justify the murder of an innocent animal. It is our responsibility to acknowledge the cruelty done to animals and take up wise action to resist the same.

  


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