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Carol Kaesuk Yoon: Just Like Animals, Plants Like Life Too
Biology | March 16, 2011

Carol Kaesuk Yoon: Just Like Animals, Plants Like Life Too

In her latest article, New York Times biology writer and Lavin speaker Carol Kaesuk Yoon looks at the biological makeup of edible plant life and asks: if many people are morally opposed to eating animals, how come no one seems to have a problem with eating plants? A former vegetarian herself, Yoon delves into the nature of plant life to reveal that plants, just like animals, don’t want to be eaten. For example:

From The New York Times:
When a plant is wounded, its body immediately kicks into protection mode. It releases a bouquet of volatile chemicals, which in some cases have been shown to induce neighboring plants to pre-emptively step up their own chemical defenses and in other cases to lure in predators of the beasts that may be causing the damage to the plants.
Why else, asks Yoon, do many plants have thorns, poison, and other evolutionary defense mechanisms? They have the same innate desire to survive as any other form of life. Plants have even been shown to exhibit basic behavioral patterns:
Not too long ago, scientists even reported evidence that plants could detect and grow differently depending on whether they were in the presence of close relatives, a level of behavioral sophistication most animals have not yet been found to show.
Even if you were to attempt to subsist on an all-mushroom diet, you would be no better off from a moral standpoint, as fungi are closer evolutionary relatives to us than plants. Yoon isn’t advocating for a diet without meat or vegetables, she is simply pointing out that the societal value placed on animal life never seems to apply to plant life, even though they are both very much alive. Because animals have faces, display basic emotions, and actively seek to protect themselves, many people have difficulty rationalizing the death of another creature to sustain themselves. However, Yoon points out that all humans — whether vegetarian, vegan, or omnivorous — rely on eating other living things to survive.

Read more about biology speaker Carol Kaesuk Yoon
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