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Think of the plants! 

Shunning meat isn't enough

I am down with animal emancipator Peggy Koteen ("It's ugly business, becoming a nugget", Feb. 21), but she stops short. It is unconscionable to me that she and so many others can care and do so much good to protect our living biosphere, yet still overlook the plight of used and abused plants and vegetables. In a letter to another publication, she talks about the untold suffering we visit upon animals simply for the experience of biting off and chewing their flesh. But neither have Koteen nor Earth's strategic voices truly come to psychic terms with our thoughtless brutality against the green world.

We have not considered the not-considerable body of scientific research into the way plants experience pain and pleasure. The most egregious violation is typified by big, multinational, corporation-owned supermarkets that have shifted lettuce sales from whole heads to polyethylene bags imprisoning lacerated shards of wilting, dying iceberg, (oh, the poor butterhead), romaine and radicchio. At least whole heads of lettuce have the chance to fade, relatively pain free, into coma-like oblivion along store produce aisles, but what of those poor, severed strips and pieces the agony they must endure in their final moments, and for what? Convenience? Does our society's chaotic need for frenetic activity justify the saving of those few mealtime moments at the expense of creating cellulosic agony on an industrial scale?

We dare not even imagine the caldrons of death used by beer makers, where the fermentation of barley embryos dooms poor hops--those beautiful plants that after all, are flowers--to being literally boiled alive. And all those weekend squires who go out to mow their lawns--Obi-wan Kenobi's ache for the millions killed by the Death Star pales when compared to the agony of all those lawns crying out in unified torment.

Recently a new evil arrived: the sound of chainsaws cutting 100-year-old coastal sequoias, just so rooftop solar panels can feed electrons into some big-screen TV being used by some suburban consumer to watch yet another mindless Roman holiday reality show. Shameful. Unforgivable, really. The smell of burned gasoline from those saws conjures up horrific images of concentration camp ovens as limbs and branches fall lifeless.

But that's not the worst. The institutionalized way we have all been trained to kill off and

consume living plants--from the delicate, vulnerable mushroom, to that toughened inner-city kid, the artichoke even he cannot hope to stand against the slaughter meted out on him and his brothers by those sworn legions of mechanized food producers who grow these and other plants in vast slave camps called "farms." It is almost unthinkable that we have such places, creating the illusion of bringing healthy nurturing and propagation to plant communities, only to mow them down with great mechanized killing machines. The very sight of these diesel-belching monsters in your last moments of life must bring a sense of fear of truly apocalyptic proportion.

When will the torment end? You and I can do our part. I know it isn't popular to ask people to simply stop eating, but since many of us are overweight, we can work our way down to healthy weights--and perhaps learn to live with less, on less. If we slowly curtail our intakes, our bodies will adapt and survive, and perhaps, one day, we'll no longer need to kill any living thing at all to live. Perhaps future scientists will one day synthesize proteins and carbohydrates from air and water and form foods that look like the ones we now enjoy, but without guilt.

Perhaps they can even create plant-like food stocks that are substantially similar to growing plants. Of course, that might even make them alive, and do we really have the power to play god, engineering life? And if we do, will it have the same hopes and fears and dreams shared by today's green world--a world we tread far too heavily and painfully upon? Who is to say we cannot adjust to a kinder, foodless life? We should at least try, for the sake of the poison oak, the Bermuda grass, and the dandelion yet to sprout.

Bruce Curtis lives in Los Osos, where he takes his irony with salt. E-mail comments to the editor at

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