Category: Weird Articles
Published on Tuesday, 18 November 2014 00:00
People choose to be vegetarians either due to religion or they can't stand the idea of killing and causing harm to an animal for meat. But what if the salad they are eating feels pain too as it is brutally being eaten alive?
The smell of freshly cut grass may be pleasant for many people, but for the grass itself, this scent signals a horror story waiting to unfold. The smell we associate with freshly cut grass is actually a chemical distress call. The plants release the smell as a way to beg nearby critters to save them from attack. In nature, this usually happens when insects try to eat them and the smell released will trigger insect-eating creatures to come to their rescue. But plants are none-the-wiser, so when we hack at it with lawnmower blades, they still release the same smell that we all seem to love so much. In other words, loving the scent of freshly cut grass in the morning is akin to loving the sound of a pig squealing in terror as it is being dragged to the slaughterhouse.
When danger strikes, whether it is in a form of a gardener or a hungry caterpillar, plants can't simply gather up their roots and run away. Their only option is to stand their ground and fight. So to protect themselves, plants employ a volley of molecular responses. These chemical communications can be used to poison an enemy, alert surrounding plants to the impending danger, or attract helpful insects and animals to perform needed services. Sometimes, a plant's molecular defense plays double-duty. For example, plants that produce caffeine use the chemical as a self-defense, but it also gives bees a caffeine buzz (which they get addicted to). The caffeine-addict bees treat the plant like their favorite coffee shop, returning again and again and leaving their pollination services as payment.
When you are enjoying your salad, the vegetables are actually screaming away in pain
So in its own way, plants can communicate. But does that mean they can feel pain? The answer may not be very appetizing for salad lovers, and you might just think twice the next time you have fresh greens on your plate.
According to researchers at the Institute for Applied Physics at the University of Bonn in Germany, plants release gases that are the equivalent of crying out in pain. Using a laser-powered microphone, researchers have picked up sound waves produced by plants releasing gases when cut or injured. Although not audible to the human ear, the secret voices of plants have revealed that cucumbers scream when they are sick, and flowers whine when their leaves are cut [source: Deutsche Welle
There is also evidence that plants can hear themselves being eaten alive. Researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia found that plants understand and respond to chewing sounds made by caterpillars that are dining on them. As soon as the plants hear the noises, they respond with several defense mechanisms [source: Feinberg
]. If you ask me, I think that being eaten alive is so much more of a horrible death than getting killed with one fell swoop to the neck, but to each his own I suppose.
For some researchers, evidence of these complex communication systems – emitting noises via gas when in distress – signals that plants do indeed feel pain. Others argue that there cannot be pain without a brain to register the feeling. Still more scientists surmise that plants can exhibit intelligent behavior without possessing a brain or conscious awareness [source: Pollan
An example of an intelligent behavior from a plant is when they grow, plants can alter their trajectories to avoid obstacles or reach for support with their tendrils despite lacking the sense of sight. This activity stems from a complex biological network distributed through the plants' roots, leaves and stems. This network helps plants propagate, grow and survive. Trees in a forest, for instance, can warn their relatives and nearby foliage of insect attacks.
One scientist carried out an experiment of injecting fir trees with radioactive carbon isotopes and observed that within a few days, the carbon had been sent from tree to tree until eventually, every tree in the 30-meter-square area was connected. The scientist learned that the mature trees “communicated” to the network to share nutrients through their root systems to feed nearby seedlings until they were tall enough to take in light for themselves [source: Pollan
]. This study showed that plants (or this species of tree in particular) had a shocking sense of paternal-maternal instinct toward their younger counterparts.
Share this article with your vegan and meat-loving friends to let them know that there is a high possibility that plants feel pain! Then sit back and watch as interesting arguments and debates break out. ;)