In case youve forgotten the section on the food web from high school biology, heres a quick refresher.
Plants make up the base of every food chain of the food web( also called the food cycle ). Plants use available sunlight to convert water from the clay and carbon dioxide emissions from the air into glucose, which dedicates them the energy they need to live. Unlike plants, animals cant synthesize their own food. They survive by feeing plants or other animals.
Clearly, animals feed plants. Whats not so clear from this painting is that plants also feed animals. They prosper on them, in fact( only Google fish emulsion ). In my new volume, A Critique of the Moral Defense of Vegetarianism, I call it the transitivity of eating. And I argue that this means one cant has become a vegetarian.
Chew on this
Ill pause to let the collective yowls of both biologists and( erstwhile) vegetarians subside.
A transitive property says that if one component in a sequence associates in a certain route to a second element, and the second element relates in the same route to a third, then the first and third elements pertain in the same way as well.
Take the well-worn trope you are what you eat. Lets say instead that we are who we feed. This stimulates the claim more personal and also implies that the beings who we attain our food arent only things.
How our food lives and succumbs matters. If we are who we feed, our food is who our food eats, too. This means that we are who our food eats in equal measure.
Plants acquire nutrients from the soil, which is composed, among other things, of disintegrated plant and animal remains. So even the individuals who assume they subsist solely on a plant-based diet actually feed animal remains as well.
This is why its impossible to be a vegetarian.
For the record, Ive been a vegetarian for about 20 years and virtually vegan for six. Im not opposed to these eating practices. That isnt my point. But I do think that many vegetarians and vegans could stand to pay closer attention to the experiences of the beings who we build our food.
For example, many vegetarians cite the sentience of animals as a reason to abstain from feeing them. But theres good reason to believe that plants are sentient, too. In other terms, theyre acutely well informed and responsive to their surroundings, and they react, in kind, to both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.
Check out the work of plant scientists Anthony Trewavas, Stefano Mancuso, Daniel Chamowitz and Frantiek Baluka if you dont believe me. Theyve shown that plants share our five senses and have something like 20 more . They have a hormonal information-processing system thats homologous to animals’ neural network. They exhibit clear signs of self-awareness and intentionality. And they can even learn and teach.
Its also important to be aware that vegetarianism and veganism arent always eco-friendly. Seem no further than the carbon footprint of your morning coffee, or how much water is required to produce the almonds you enjoy as an afternoon snack.
A term for the skeptics
I suspect how some biologists provide responses: first, plants dont actually eat since feeing involves the ingestion via chewing and swallow of other life kinds. Second, while its true that plants absorb nutrients from the soil and that these nutrients could have come from animals, theyre strictly inorganic: nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and tracing sums of other elements. Theyre the constituents of recycled minerals, devoid of any vestiges of animality.
As for the first concern, maybe it would help if I said that both plants and animals take in, eat or make use of, rather than employing the word eat. I guess Im only not picky about how I conceptualize what feeing entails. The point is that plants ingest carbon dioxide emissions, sunlight, water and minerals that are then used to build and sustain their bodies. Plants ingest inasmuch as they create, and they arent the least bit particular about the origins of the minerals they acquire.
With respect to the second concern, why should be used matter that the nutrients depicted by plants from animals are inorganic? The phase is that they once played in essential role in facilitating animals lives. Are we who we eat only if we take in organic matter from the beings who become our food? I confess that I dont understand why this should be. Privileging organic matter strikes me as a biologists bias.
Then theres the argument that mineral recycling cleanses the nutrients of their animality. This is a contentious claim, and I dont think this is a fact of the matter. It goes to the core of the way we view our relationship with our food. You could say that there are spiritual issues at stake here , not only matters such as biochemistry.
Changing how we view our food
Lets view our relationship with our food in a different way: by taking into account the fact that were part of a community of living beings plant and animal who occupy the place that we stimulate our home.
Were eaters, yes, and is likewise eat. Thats right, were part of the food web, too! And the well-being of each is dependent on the well-being of all.
From this perspective, what the self-proclaimed farmosopher Glenn Albrecht calls sumbiotarianism( from the Greek word sumbioun, to live together) has clear advantages.
Sumbioculture is a form of permaculture, or sustainable agriculture. Its an organic and biodynamic route of farming thats consistent with the health of entire ecosystems.
Sumbiotarians eat in harmony with their ecosystem. So they exemplify, literally, the idea that the well-being of our food hence, our own well-being is a function of the health of the land.
In order for our needs to be met, the needs and interests of the land must come first. And in areas where its prohibitively difficult to acquire the essential fats that we need from pressed petroleums alone, this may include different forms of animal used only for meat, manure and so forth.
Simply set, living sustainably in such an area whether its New England or the Australian Outback may well entail relying on animals for food, at the least in a limited way.
All life is bound together in a complex web of interdependent relationships among someones, species and entire ecosystems. Each of us borrows, its utilization and returns nutrients. This cycle is what permits life to continue. Rich, black soil is so fertile because its chock full of the composted are still in the dead along with the waste of the living.
Indeed, its not uncommon for indigenous peoples to identify veneration of their ancestors and of their ancestral land with the celebration of the life-giving character of the earth. Consider this from culture ecologist and Indigenous scholar-activist Melissa Nelson 😛 TAGEND
The bones of our ancestors have become the clay, the clay grows our food, the food nourishes our bodies, and we become one, literally and metaphorically, with our homelands and territories.
Youre welcome to disagree with me, of course. But its worth noting that what I propose has conceptual roots that may be as old as humanity itself. Its probably worth taking some time to digest this.
Read more: www.iflscience.com