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Vegetables are murder!

Each year we embark on an annual 6-month vintage mission with the first grapes picked in the South Burnett, and finishing at our vineyard in the Whitlands in Victoria. The process of picking is obviously a physically traumatic one for the grapevine as crews snip hack at them and mechanical harvesters shake the bejesus out of them to remove the grapes, essentially the plant’s babies. Their babies people. For many years I worked in plant research and the concept of plant ethics always intrigued me because the more you learn about plants the more you realise they function on a very similar level to animals. The concept of vegetarianism is built on the premise that “meat is murder” based presumably on the fact that animals are cognitive creatures that feel pain. The ease in which people accept the concept of vegan wine without addressing the moral dilemma of consuming a plant’s genitalia, crushed and imprisoned in glass entombed with the cadavers of a billion conscripted single-celled fungi, astounds me. I eat meat and I eat plants, but I acknowledge that I have knowingly disabused both of their right to a voluntary passage through their life. The Swiss are all over this, with ethics approval now required before plant research activities.


Sympathy for the right of plants is not new. Thoreau wrote in his seminal essay Chesuncook (1858), “Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine-trees, and he who understands it alright will rather preserve life than destroy it.” He finishes it with, “the living spirit of the tree… it is as immortal as I am, and perchance will go to as high a heaven, there to tower above me still.”  


Today a branch of ethics, plant ethics, has emerged that explores this concept further. My favourite treatise on this is by Sylvie Pouteau who writes: 


“From the point of view of ethics however, plants should be defended for what they are by nature and not by comparison to external references: the ethical standing of plants cannot be indexed to animals. It is thus reckoned that to circumvent this odd fetishism, the plant ethics can only be adequately addressed by changing the theory of plant science.”


I recommend reading even just the abstract, a brilliant piece of scientific writing and critical thought that suggests the typical ego-centric mind of humans is incapable of parsing the concept that plants have rights. 




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