They would eat us if they could! And some of them do, or would if they were big enough. Molds and fungus eat our bodies once we slow down enough for them to get to us. Morbid? Exactly!
If you think that is gross, consider that everything we eat is dead, too. Only difference is that instead of waiting patiently for our food to die, we go get it and kill it.
Which brings me to plants. I had an experience in high school that changed my mind about the ethics of what I ate. I went to a school for Science and Math. I liked biology but hadn't had much of it, didn't really understand a lot of the science behind it. As I took classes I began to understand that it was mostly chemistry and a little mystery. But mainly chemistry. Drugs, chemicals, hormones, catalysts, solvents, nutrients, dna, growth...all of it together forming the magical components of "life".
At that time they defined life as :
the sum of the distinguishing phenomena of organisms
specifically: metabolism, growth, reproduction, and adaptation
"They" were teachers and scientists working within the normative fields of biology and education. I had no knowledge of philosophers at the time, no idea that intellectual rigor could be attached to the very concept of what life is and is not.
But a potato and a biological quirk changed all that.
I hated to put away my clothes. I lived at a boarding school and I was a bit of a slob with no parent to control me. So my effects were strewn about my room in plain sight, like I still like it today. Once I can't see it, it might as well not exist. That was the quirk.
I had a microwave on my floor and I used it on the rare occasion for popcorn and hot chocolate. But one day in the dining hall, they had raw potatoes. (I do not know why)
I got the bright idea to take one and have a baked potato for a snack, nutritionally improving on my diet of popcorn and chocolate...brilliant!
So I took it back to my room and my roommate, knowing my proclivities, suggested I throw it out BEFORE it rotted and started to smell (plants of mine having died cruel deaths before her caring but not enough to water them eyes). I, in a fit of pique, threw it in an empty drawer and promptly forgot about it.
Many months passed. I did not open the drawer, as I had truly forgotten there was anything in it. The spring came and I saw a small green leaf coming out of the edge of the drawer. My first thought was, "Oh shit! What now?"
I opened it and found a shriveled husk of potato and an elaborate vine that had grown toward the slight opening of light in the crack of the drawer in sight of the window. It had converted its whole being in an effort to reproduce. It had grown. It had moved in its only means possible in a cruel and inhospitable environment. It wanted to live so much that in a dark drawer, when spring came, it tried to get out and do its thing.
I was both horrified and amazed. I was a thinking kind of teenager. And I couldn't help but be impressed with the tenacity of the thing. Seeing the shriveled husk of what it was and realizing that without water, without nurturing, without dirt...it had lived. My unthinking grinch mind grew three sizes that day.
Ok. I had no intention of rearing it or harvesting it. But I did release it into the edge of the intramural field to be free and have a better chance and future. It certainly deserved that.
Flash ten years forward. My emo friends in college have gone vegetarian. My emo college professor has a vivisected dog picture in his office positioned so that you cannot consult him for a class without looking directly at it the whole time you are in there. (If he loved it so, why didn't he put it on our side of the desk? Asshole.) I am contemplating vegetarianism and I simply cannot do it.
It would be phenomenally hypocritical of me. Reliant on diabetic drugs to live, I am part of the monolithic big pharma machine that tests on animals. My diet works better with more meat, less starch. Dairy is slavery. Chickens are meat puppets. Pigs are delicious. It all roils and boils in my brain and I come to this conclusion.
There isn't anything we eat that doesn't want to live just as much as we do. Just because it doesn't have doe eyes for you to stare into and you can't see it move because you don't have the attention span of time lapse photography doesn't mean it isn't imbued with life energy. That is what being part of an organic food chain is all about.
There are plants that eat meat. There is meat that eats plants only. We are omnivores. You can tell by our teeth and the chemicals in our bodies that are designed to take everything good to eat under the sun and turn it into energy and healthy flesh.
There IS an ethical diet, that causes no harm to normal life cycles and doesn't involve killing anything. Someday, I would like to live the life where I can eat this way. I am working on it.
This diet consists of everything that wants you to eat it or that will rot if left uneaten. Fruits, seed pods, eggs and vegetation that is finished doing its thing. This is a LOT of food. Tomatoes, oils, all nuts, all seeds, all unfertilized eggs, all milk produced in excess of the needs of offspring, all grains, every vegetable fruit pod with seeds inside, all vegetables that are finished with their life cycle like kale, broccoli, sprouts. Many items want you to eat it and excrete it somewhere else, that is why it evolved to be tasty. Domesticated animals produce excess milk in exchange for care and feeding. It is mutually beneficial. You would only eat meat that died naturally. You could eat eggs of many kinds and maintain animals to produce them. Mushrooms and bacteria are abundant and create tastiness, yogurts, and cheeses. And then there is fruit of the sweet variety, filled with seeds and delicious flesh. All of the legumes you could consume.
I could live this way. I would love it. It would cost a fortune in America. I could go off the grid and become a farmer....
Back to the real world. I dream of it. And some day, when I am not a mother feeding a man who likes beef, not a diabetic who can't quite bite the hypocrite bullet, not lazy, not a lover of all things pork related...someday when I am no longer me, I will get there. And it will be glorious.
I leave you with a short movie. A presentation from the series, "LIFE". It explains plants and their desires with illustration rather than words. It is beautiful and kind of mind blowing.
Three minutes of visual convincing that plants want to live, too!
Eating Animals, Part II: Pigs
Eating Animals, Part I: Dogs