Put down that salad! Have you considered the dignity of the vegetables you’re about to crush into easily-digestible pieces? Have you no concern for their inherent worth as living beings? Have you made sure to carefully justify the moral necessity of harming those plants for your own ends?
Those are the topics recently under serious consideration by a Swiss governmental ethics panel. Their conclusion? Plants do indeed possess “inherent worth” and must be protected “for their own sake” from human destruction. The report, replete with sympathy-evoking photos of beautiful, dignified flowers on every page, can be found (here).
The disastrous consequences of an idea like “plant rights” are easy to imagine. Put aside for now the human need to eat plants for sustenance, which would presumably be allowed by the panel given a proper application for an eating license citing an approved moral justification to feed oneself. Consider all the less-necessitated ways we use plants for our ends. How could you justify “decapitating” (the panel’s word) a beautiful rose for such a superficial human occasion as Valentines Day? Imagine the outrage of mowing one’s lawn, which amounts to severing the bodies of thousands of individuals for purely aesthetic reasons.
Clearly, this idea of respecting the “inherent worth” of plant life is utterly incompatible with human life. This raises an important question – how did a panel of Ph.D.’s, the most educated members of society, reach such an absurd conclusion after extensive and highly complex discussion?
The answer lies in the flawed view of morality accepted throughout modern academia. In their report, the panelists profess a “biocentric” view of morality which holds that ethical questions pertain to all living things. However, it is important to note that the only living things the panel is urging to exercise moral restraint are human beings – they aren’t demanding that bears consider the dignity of salmon before snatching them from the river, nor that mosquitoes observe the inherent worth of their fellow creatures before sucking their blood.
This double standard is a crucial clue to the mistake of the moral philosophy that underpins faulty ideas like animal “rights”, and now, plant “rights”. Any rational idea of morality necessarily applies only to things that have the capacity to conceive of and exercise moral choices. The reason it sounds strange to think of a rock, flower, or groundhog as moral or immoral is because such entities are incapable of thinking about or making the kinds of choices morality involves. Only one kind of being is – human beings.
Only in the works of Ayn Rand can one find a fully rational view of morality, one that shows why ideas like “plant rights” are as absurd as they sound.