I had this question in my head earlier this week:
If I pointed to a human being and asked you 'who is that?', you wouldn't have any problem finding an answer for me. If however, I were to pick up an orange and then pointing to it ask you 'who is this?' how could you answer me?
I found this link on the wiki plant perception page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plant_rights
While I am not surprised by anything in the article itself I am reminded of the strange premises on which we base many of our views. When we talk of 'life' most of us do so as if in complete ignorance to the modern scientific understanding of the topic. We still attach this air of mystery and (of consequence) reverence to the word as if it were anything more than a biological term. When we use terms like 'the sanctity of life', 'the value' or 'the right to life' you have to wonder what in gods name we are really saying.
It goes back to the question of the fruit. We don't feel that the life of a plant warrants the affixation of a who, some people are at odds concerning its attachment to animals and even with humans the who/what question remains a hot topic of discussion when comes into the matter of the unborn fetus. Frankly, the assumption of autonomy is what baffles me.
Yes the individualistic nature and thoughts of a person are more apparent to us than say those of an ape or a sheep but by what measure does one become more valid than the other? How do the sparks of life in the lowest cells and organs become sacred in view of the entire human structure? To what exactly are we attributing these dreamt up liberties and entitlements. If it is truly to 'life' then how are we excluding them to some creatures and not others?
Also, and with no disrespect to the views of anyone here, what does someone really mean when they say they respect the life of an animal? If you mean the physical fact that something is alive, then of course. When I look at a living creature I can healthily acknowledge that it is in fact a functioning, self-sustaining creature capable of sentient thoughts and remarkable ingenuity. I can appreciate it's intelligence, its beauty, its complexity and its affectionate mind even as I appreciate its taste. That I respect its nature does not mean that I will not also enjoy watching it die. Knowing what it is will not prevent me from deriving pleasure as it endures the very uttermost suffering that its own complexity can provide.
My point is that the nature of the object does not dictate ones feelings towards the object and that feelings themselves are not instructive regarding ones behavior. I can respect my body even as I undertake surgery to enhance it, just as I can still enjoy steak after a trip to the slaughterhouse.
Discovering that plants could actually feel pain would not necessitate that we change our treatment of them nor would it suggest that we should in fact feel sorry for our cabbages every time we chopped them up to make a salad. Or does anyone here feel differently?