Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Here's an interesting article from yesterday's New York Times, in which the author describes some of the ways in which plants defend themselves and fight for survival. One example:

Just because we humans can’t hear them doesn’t mean plants don’t howl. Some of the compounds that plants generate in response to insect mastication — their feedback, you might say — are volatile chemicals that serve as cries for help. Such airborne alarm calls have been shown to attract both large predatory insects like dragon flies, which delight in caterpillar meat, and tiny parasitic insects, which can infect a caterpillar and destroy it from within.
The author includes these plant survival strategies vis-a-vis discussions concerning ethical eating habits. Although a vegetarian diet is sometimes healthier, is better for the environment, and is probably the only sane response to inhumane confined-feeding operations, another oft-cited reason for herbivorous diets is that killing vegetables for food is more ethically acceptable than killing animals for food because animals seek self-preservation like humans. But as the article describes, plants are just as interested in staying alive as that pig was before it became Christmas ham.

Even so, of course, plants are higher up the chain of being and thus closer to us homo sapiens, and so it might be proper to be more polite and not eat them. If anything, I suppose, we ought to have a disposition of thankfulness, that in killing either plants or animals for food, we know that we too will soon die, that in preparing vegetables and meat for a meal, we are taking in the light, life, and food of another living being, and that these are gifts given by God who has been gracious and generous towards us. To kill is a serious thing and ought not to be done carelessly. And part of being careful and thankful for that which we eat is to ensure that the lives of both plants and animals prior to harvest are lived out in a way that is most proper and healthy for them. One of the more obvious things to do is avoid meat from confined-feeding operations and vegetables that have been poisoned by pesticides in monocultures.

And so far I've been unable to make it through more than a couple of posts without mentioning Wendell Berry. I'll continue with the trend of including works from that farmer-poet, whose poem, "Prayer After Eating," seems most appropriate here:
I have taken in the light
that quickened eye and leaf.
May my brain be bright with praise
of what I eat, in the brief blaze
of motion and of thought.
May I be worthy of my meat.


katietracy. said...


Dutch said...

have you read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver?

claire said...

I love Barbara Kingsolver!
This post kind of reminds me of a strange short story by Roald Dahl entitled "The Sound Machine." It is quite bizarre. You should read it sometime- I'll loan it to you.

Kyle said...

I've read Barbara Kingsolver, but I haven't read that one, though I've heard some things about it.

And, Claire, how does this remind you of a Roald Dahl story? I'm not sure what to make of that.

claire said...

It is so good. I am going to bring it with me so you can read it.

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