“The jury is still out on whether [plants] feel pain. If we discover that they can, we may all become fruitarians, eating only what falls from the tree.” The words are from PETA on the Dail Mail website. The title is clickbait! But one day it might be a genuine statement. I have always believed that there is a faint possibility that trees feel pain in a different way to mammals as we have nerves to send pain signals to the brain which interprets them. Trees don’t have nerves or a brain but it not beyond the bounds of our imagination to see the possibility that trees might feel ‘pain’ in a different way. After all flies do.
The thought that plants might feel pain follows a recent research study in which they found that damaged (cut) or stressed plants through not watering them created sounds as if they were communicating to other plants or perhaps insects. This is work in progress but the fact that they produce sounds would have been pure fiction about 50 years ago. If you’d said that plants produced when they were damaged sounds back in those relatively unenlightened days people would have thought you were bonkers.
Every day we are making new discoveries about a parallel topic, the sentience of animals. What about fish feeling pain? Let’s go further, what about flies and insects feeling pain? Fish do feel pain and some scientists do believe that flies feel pain but it might not be the kind of pain that humans feel.
The point is obvious: we are discovering things about the natural world which in our arrogance we never believed possible. In our arrogance we always thought that humans were the best and most intelligent creatures on the planet. All the rest were fools to be used for our benefit and as we please. That is the old M.O. in relation to nature but times are changing.
There is a gradual enlightenment. PETA’s VP of Programs, Elisa Alan Told the Mail Online:
It shouldn’t come as a shock that plants make noise – likely from the formation of bursting of air bubbles in the plant’s vascular system – given that they communicate via fungal networks to warn each other of impending threats.
So, this PETA VP thinks that it is at least possible that if plants can vocalize, they just might be able to feel pain but other vegans brand the idea as ridiculous. They insist that the plant kingdom simply doesn’t have the capacity to feel as animals. I agree that. Common sense dictates that conclusion but we have to be open to the possibility that they may feel ‘pain’ in a different kind of way using different processes.
A University of Wisconsin study published last year found that when a bug bit into a plant leaf it sets off a chain reaction in the cells of the plant. Calcium is released which generates a hormonal response from the plant to protect their leaves. Some plants release toxic chemicals which makes it taste bad to bugs. Other plants give off hormones which attract wasps which eat the attacking insects.
It does sound fanciful and a bit extreme but there are hints in this study that plants do a lot more than people think. And they may BE a lot more than people think as a consequence.