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Plant rights is a concept which holds that plants should be allowed some "rights." It is not clear how much of the "plant rights" movement is real or how much is a hoax; some of it may be driven by those who wish to denigrate the animal rights movement by association. The concept of plant rights is held to be somewhat analogous to the concept of animal rights, however it is vastly less significant.
Nevertheless, it certainly gives right-wing bloggers and authors something to gasp and rage over. For instance, according to an article published in the Weekly Standard authored by Wesley J. Smith, a senior member of the intelligent design-supporting Discovery Institute, "plant rights" is a "seriously debated" concept.
Advocates of plant rights (or possibly parodists, which is the best case scenario) argue:
“”"Plants are peaceful, passive creatures that do not actively cause harm. Plants provide us with oxygen to breath [sic]. Plants provide us shade and prevent erosion. One could even say that Plantliness is next to Godliness. We must do everything we can to protect our plant brothers. We must halt the barbaric practice of building houses out of plant carcasses. We must stop the evil Canadians from draining the blood out of our maple comrades. And we must end the campaigns of the demented vegans who favor only eating our helpless but plant friends."
Advocates of plant rights describe the unnecessary eating of plants or indiscriminate killing of plants as "plant genocide."
While plant rights have few legitimate champions, some people will write editorials or letters to the editor that criticize veganism and vegetarianism by claiming that "plants feel pain" and other plant rights claptrap, in an attempt to take the moral high ground from vegans and vegetarians (usually, so they can argue that eating meat is okay).
However, even some people who dismiss plant rights as ridiculous would oppose the gratuitous chopping-down of mature trees, and in many jurisdictions trees have some legal protection.
Universal Declarations of Plant Rights
The Avepalmas, a Venezuelan environmentalist organization, has promoted the Universal Declaration of Plant Rights (UDPR). The UDPR is approved by government organizations like the Venezuelan Society of Natural Sciences (Sociedad Venezolana de Ciencias Naturales), representatives of the Venezuelan botanical gardens, non-government organizations like Friends of the Trees Society (Sociedad Amigos del Arbol, SADARBOL), Caracas Garden Club, Caracas Hiker Center (Centro Excursionistas Caracas, CEC) and other conservationist organizations. There are twenty two individual articles in the UDPR.
Swiss government's recognition of plant rights
In April 2008 the Swiss government produced a discussion document "The dignity of living beings with regard to plants" . They naturally included a comment about proportionality saying they felt "any action with or towards plants that serves the self-preservation of humans to be morally justified."
This thoughtful discussion document reported majority and minority positions about the use of plants. It was shortly sensationalized in various ways, including claims that the Swiss had added to their constitution a provision requiring "account to be taken of the dignity of creation when handling animals, plants and other organisms", and a Swiss government panel had determined that humans cannot claim "absolute ownership" over plants.
In fact, as of 2010 this material had not been incorporated into the Swiss constitution.
Notwithstanding this, The Wall Street Journal in an article in October 2008 titled "Switzerland's Green Power Revolution: Ethicists Ponder Plants' Rights" reported, "Last spring, this small Alpine nation began mandating that geneticists conduct their research without trampling on a plant's dignity." The Swiss Parliament asked a panel of philosophers, lawyers, geneticists and theologians to establish a rule to protect the dignity of plants. The team published a 22-page treatise on "the moral consideration of plants for their own sake", and declared arbitrary harm to plants such as "decapitation of wildflowers at the roadside without rational reason" is unethical. The report, prepared by the Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology (ECNH), described interfering with plants without a valid reason as "morally inadmissible".
More imaginative and sensationalist reporting claimed that a "new law" enacted by the Swiss parliament protected the dignity of plants and banned humiliation of plants. According to the "new law," abuses such as "decapitation of wildflowers at the roadside without rational reason" is punishable offense.
The core arguments provided by advocates of plant rights are:
- Plants are living beings like animals and humans and deserve the same treatment as animals or humans.
- Malcolm Wilkins, a British professor, told a science conference in Loughborough, England that plants are extremely sensitive organisms and are much more sophisticated than people think. He also said plants even make inaudible noise when they want water.
- Plant rights advocates argue since plants feel pain, it is unethical and cruel to kill plants.
- Party for the Plants (Dutch: Partij voor de Planten or PvdP) is a Dutch political party founded in 2010. Pieter Baas, former director of the National Herbarium of the Netherlands, was one of its founders. The party made its public debut with an interview on a local radio. The party is opposed to the use of plants for production of biofuel. According to the Robert Schuman Foundation, a French think tank that conducts research on the European Union and its policies, the PvdP focuses on "global warming, the protection of sustainable growth and biodiversity." Reuters reported on March 29, 2010 that the party planed to contest parliamentary elections in the Netherlands in June 9, 2010. According to the party, most decisions about the organization of society is not separated from their effects on the natural world. Party leader Rolf Rose called for the introduction of "tile tax". According to Rose, more gardens are disappearing due to the tiles. According to the manifesto of the party, food that is grown using fertilizers (which the party describes as a non-renewable source) and "ecosystem disruption" are not sustainable. PvdP emphasizes on moving the agricultural sector to sustainable production and permaculture. Teo Wams, director of Nature of Nature (Dutch: Natuurbeheer van Natuurmonumenten), found the party an interesting initiative and said that if there are animal rights parties, plant rights parties can surly exist. It should be noted though that the party is very small and low profile, and most Dutch people have never heard of them.
- Plant Liberation Front is a non-profit organization advocating plant rights. PLF was established in 1985. It is a batshit insane but non-violent movement and has four types of membership: Activist, Advocate, Curious, Student.
The concept of plant rights has attracted criticism from sane people everywhere and it seems especially from conservatives who believe "the concept of animal rights (and now, plant rights as well) undermine critical thinking about the uniqueness of the human species."
Wesley J. Smith, a senior member of the far-right, intelligent design-supporting Discovery Institute, criticized the far-left concept of plant rights. Regarding the Swiss government's effort to protect plant rights, Smith said,
Switzerland's enshrining of "plant dignity" is a symptom of a cultural disease that has infected Western civilization, causing us to lose the ability to think critically and distinguish serious from frivolous ethical concerns. It also reflects the triumph of a radical anthropomorphism that views elements of the natural world as morally equivalent to people.
After the Swiss government report, Yves Poirier, a molecular biologist at the University of Lausanne said, "Where does it stop? Should we now defend the dignity of microbes and viruses?" Poirier believes the Swiss report is flawed. Christof Sautter, a Swiss botanist, is embarrassed to mention the new plant dignity report to his American colleagues. He said, "They'll (Americans) think Swiss people are crazy."
The concept of plant rights is criticized by the pseudoscience-promoter Young Earth creationist organization Creation Ministries International (CMI). Lita Cosner of the CMI in an article titled "‘Plants rights’? The latest evolutionary absurdity" claimed plants do not feel pain and described plant rights as an "absurd idea". Bob McCarty, a right-wing political activist and blogger, criticized plant rights in his blog Bob McCarty Writes.
The concept of plant rights is sometimes used not out of genuine concern for plants, but rather as a reductio ad absurdum to discredit animal rights and veganism, and advocates of these positions are therefore critical of the concept.
- Wikipedia:Plant rights
- Plant FAQs
- The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants, the English-language brochure on plant rights put out by the Swiss ethics panel
- On Respect for Plants
- An attempt to create plant rights by the right
- The Silent Scream of the Asparagus Weeklystandard.com
- The plant liberation front The America's Intelligence Wire
- What If Plants Feel Pain?, Jo Stepaniak.
- Absurdity of Plant Pain, Tabish Qureshi.
- A brief guide to legislation for trees, The Arboricultural Association
- Declaration of plant rights
- Sven Nehlin, Universal Declaration of Plant Rights (UDPR) 'baptized' in Caracas with the green leaves of a fern tree, VHeadline.com, December 10, 2004.
- Universal Declarations of Plant Rights, Avepalmas
- The dignity of living beings with regard to plants — Swiss government
- Swiss constitution 2010 in English
- Gautam Naik, Switzerland's Green Power Revolution: Ethicists Ponder Plants' Rights, The Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2008.
- Swiss experts say plants have rights too Swissinfo
- Switzerland Places Ban on the Humiliation of Plants
- Swiss Plants Have Rights
- Plants have feelings too, Chicago Tribune
- Homepage of the party (translated)
- Orignial homepage of the party (Dutch)
- Plant rights party to contest next Dutch election, Reuters
- Plant rights party to contest next election in Netherlands, The Brunei Times, March 31, 2010.
- General Elections in the Netherlands: 9th June 2010, Robert Schuman Foundation
- Partij voor de Planten naar Den Haag? (Dutch) March 29, 2010. Translated version of the same page March 29, 2010.
- [tt_news=352805&cHash=e94e4a1ebae0e04ec94c9a17f6d8dfb0 Partij voor de Planten], Vara. [tt_news%3D352805%26cHash%3De94e4a1ebae0e04ec94c9a17f6d8dfb0 Translated version of the same page]
- Party manifesto (translated)
-  Plant Liberation Front
- The American Spectator
- When really, besides these nutjobs, it's just Erich von Däniken.
- Lita Cosner, ‘Plants rights’? The latest evolutionary absurdity, Creation Ministries International (CMI), April 30, 2009.
- Bob McCarty, Plant Rights Movement En Route to America, Bob McCarty Writes, May 6, 2008.
- Natalie Angier, Sorry, Vegans: Brussels Sprouts Like to Live, Too
- The Guardian, Birds and the Bees
- Jakub Marian, 'But plants have feelings too' argument against veganism