A common question that often pops up, especially when it is related to veganism, is whether plants feel pain or not.
So, what’s the real answer – do plants feel pain, and do they have feelings?
In short – no. Plants do not feel pain because they lack pain receptors, nerves, or a brain which means they can’t have feelings or feel pain the same way animals or humans do.
Since there is a lot of misinformation about this topic, let’s dive deeper into it to see what the science says about plants and whether they feel pain.
Do Plants Feel Pain?
So far, there haven’t been any studies to prove that plants can feel pain.
The main reason is that they lack the nervous system, pain receptors, and brain necessary for this to happen. So, anatomically, plants are not able to feel pain.
The confusion that plants can feel pain may come from the fact that plants are indeed alive and capable of doing incredible things.
However, they are different from animals and us. For example, plants operate on a cellular level – when certain stimuli (light, gravity, water, and touch) are applied to an organism, various changes appear.
Plant hormones (signal molecules) regulate plant cellular processes, including plant growth, flowering, ripening, and defense responses.
Do Plants Have Feelings (Or Emotions)?
No – unlike humans and non-human animals, plants do not have feelings.
It is undeniable that a plant can respond to environmental stimuli, like turning towards the light or closing over a fly. But that doesn’t prove that they can have feelings, such as pain.
That’s what makes a plant less morally significant than an animal with a brain, nervous system, and sentient.
That’s more important when assigning moral worth- not the possession of life, but the possession of sentience.
Do Trees Feel Pain?
Like plants, trees are alive, but they are not sentient beings. They don’t have subjective experiences, and from what we know, they can’t suffer or feel pain.
Do Plants Have A Nervous System?
Research for over 25 years shows that many plants transmit electrical signals to and from different parts of their bodies to respond to environmental stimuli. However, plants do not have a nervous system.
What Does Sentience Mean?
Sentience is the capacity to feel, perceive, or experience subjectively. Therefore, sentience requires a level of awareness and cognitive ability.
Are Plants Sentient?
Plants are not sentient. Plants use groups of coordinated physiological activities to deal with defined environmental situations but currently have no known mental state to prioritize any order of response.
As mentioned before, plant cells respond to external stimulants by changing several factors on a cellular level.
Are Animals Sentient?
Yes – animals are sentient.
There is evidence from multiple scientific studies proving that animals can experience positive and negative feelings such as pleasure, joy, pain, and distress.
This includes all animals, and evidence supports the sentience and consciousness of fish, too.
Animals possess a central nervous system, which means that they have the potential to experience pain. There is also undeniable behavioral evidence of pain, including screaming, squealing, and struggling.
Interesting Facts About Plants
Despite the evidence, even if plants did experience pain, a vegan diet would be the best way to reduce their suffering, as going vegan actually saves more plants and trees than a typical meat and dairy diet.
This is because:
- Farming animals for food uses much more land than farming plants. 77% of agricultural land is used to farm animals, despite it providing just 18% of the world’s caloric intake.
- It takes much more plant-killing to make meat, milk, and eggs. It takes up to 16 kilograms of plants to create 1 kilogram of certain animal products. As a result, vastly more plants are killed for non-vegans than for vegans.
- Up to 91% of Amazon rainforest destruction is due to animal agriculture. This means that millions of trees are destroyed because of the consumption of animal products.
- Plants do have ways of communicating with each other. However, it is incomparable to human or animal communication.
Plants have entirely different ways of being than us.
There is an undeniable moral distinction between animals, plants, and other life forms, precisely because of the sentience factor.
Plans are not conscious, they don’t consciously respond to external stimuli, and there is no evidence to suggest sentience or the ability to feel pain or emotions.
On the other hand, non-human animals, like humans, are conscious, sentient, and have subjective experiences.
Unlike plants, animals can experience negative emotions, such as pain and suffering, or positive ones, like happiness and joy.
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