This Sunday, Pray for the Potted Plants
An interesting story comes to us from Wes Smith of The Weekly Standard. It seems that the Swiss government commissioned a blue ribbon ethics panel to look at the dignity of plants. The resulting report, titled “The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants,” comes off pretty much like it sounds – that plants, as living beings, have certain inalienable rights and we humans need to be more ethical in how we treat them. (NOTE: There is no “satire” tag on this column.)
Obviously this will result in some raised eyebrows, and with good reason. Smith ponders the question of how we arrived at this juncture.
Why is this happening? Our accelerating rejection of the Judeo-Christian world view, which upholds the unique dignity and moral worth of human beings, is driving us crazy. Once we knocked our species off its pedestal, it was only logical that we would come to see fauna and flora as entitled to rights.
The intellectual elites were the first to accept the notion of “species-ism,” which condemns as invidious discrimination treating people differently from animals simply because they are human beings. Then ethical criteria were needed for assigning moral worth to individuals, be they human, animal, or now vegetable.
I’m going to have to respectfully disagree here, at least up to a point. Clearly Judeo-Christian doctrine teaches the dominion of man over the animals and plants of the world. (Genesis 9:3 reads, in part, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be food for you; as the green herb have I given you all.”) But I have met plenty of extremely pious vegans in my time.
Ironically, I see this as not so much a rejection of the dictates of God, but a denial of our status as animals. In the natural world, there are predators and there are prey. Some animals developed long fangs, sharp claws and lightening speed suited for hunting down, catching and consuming other animals. Human beings were rather short changed in the fang and nail department and had to compensate by building bigger brains which allowed us to develop technology suited to overcoming that gap. With these tools we rose to the top of the food chain, allowing us to eat well, survive and thrive. A quick check of your last dental x-rays will reveal that we are perfectly suited to consume both animal flesh and plant fiber.
With all due respect to both Genesis and Wesley Smith, it is our enlightened point of view – our “unique dignity and moral worth” as Smith puts it – which compels us to treat our animal charges more humanely. Many of us take in pets and treat them as part of the family, but this is done by choice and speaks to our compassion. The farmer is similarly moved to provide good food and water to his stock, as well as shelter from the winter storms. None of this, however, changes the fundamental relationship between the predator and the prey. I hold no particular animus toward cows, (I’m sorry… perhaps I should say “Bovine-Americans” now) but that doesn’t change the fact that I’d like my New York strip steak prepared medium rare, thank you very much.
It seems foolish to the point of dangerous folly to extend our sympathies so far that we cut ourselves off from the ability to feed ourselves. What will be left for us after this… a diet of air, water and… what? Some sort of rocks? Wait a minute, though… I think I hear the footfalls of some mineral rights group coming along soon.