Do you know anyone who often starts their letters "I feel that I must write..."? Yes, that is Bridget Murphy, whose latest battles have been against her fellow Catholics on the subject of vegetarianism, and she actually argues that "Thou Shalt Not Kill" not only applies to her fellow human beings, but also to animals as well!
Anyhow, here is my response, printed in the JEP. All the names given are real historical people, who did actually do what is recounted here, until the last paragraph! That's not to say I believe plants have feelings - I'm just mentioning people who do - but I thought it was a quirky and somewhat surrealist counterpoint to Mrs Murphy! I'm sure it won't silence her, but it might make her think before sounding off again!
I feel that I must write in to protest against Bridget Murphy's argument that "Thou Shall Not Kill" necessitates vegetarianism. It is well known that vegetables have feelings too.
The Indian scientist Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose began to conduct experiments on plants in the year 1900, and found that plants appeared to respond to shock by a spasm just as an animal muscle does. One account notes that a visitor to his laboratory, "vegetarian playwright George Bernard Shaw, was intensely disturbed upon witnessing a demonstration in which a cabbage had violent convulsions as it boiled to death". Research on vegetable feelings was later taken up by American scientist Cleve Backster in 1966, when he demonstrated changes in the plant's electrical conductivity if threatened with fire.
Prince Charles himself notably accorded plant life a degree of sentience when he memorably said "You must talk to your vegetables" in 1986.
Vegetables are living too, and to apply "Thou Shall Not Kill", as Bridget Murphy does, purely to animal life and in support of vegetarianism is protoplasmic discrimination. On behalf of the League Against Cruelty to Vegetables, which was founded by the late Douglas Adams and Dame Lettice Sprey, I would ask her to think again.
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