We’ve all eaten vegetables at one point in our lives. And we want to eat them fresh. But some plant activists believe that we must be kind to plants as we are required to be kind to animals. You may wonder: are plants alive? Do they feel pain?
A living organism feels pain if it has a brain, nerves, and pain receptors. Do plants have these sensory neurons? No, they don’t. So, without a brain that can interpret sensory feelings, plants do not feel pain – as humans and animals do.
Considering their organic structure and components, plants do not have any central nervous system. Without it, an organism cannot feel anything. When you cut a plant, it will not feel any pain.
Read on to learn more if plants are alive and if they feel pain when they are cut or uprooted.
Are Plants Alive? Do They Feel Pain?
Are Plants Alive When You Eat Them?
Plants are living things. But are plants alive when you eat them? They are not ‘alive’ in the same sense as we humans, animals, and insects alive.
Organisms with a Central Nervous System Can Feel Pain
They don’t have brains, nerves, and pain receptors. Without these sensory neurons, even if an organism is a living thing, it won’t feel pain when subjected to physical stress.
In short, plants don’t feel pain as we humans, animals, and insects do when subjected to physical (and emotional) stress. So, if you unearth a potato and cut it from its roots on the ground or prune your fruit trees to make them bear more fruits, you are not inflicting pain on them.
A living organism can only feel pain if it has a central nervous system. Yes, plants live, but not because we humans and animals live. They don’t have any central nervous system. Nothing in their organic structures can interpret the stress they are subjected to as pain.
Are Plants Sentient?
While plants may not feel anything, they are still alive. Some people who love plants (called anthophilous and plantsman) believe that they are sentient life forms and that plants display ‘nastic’ and ‘tropic’ responses when stimulated.
Some plant experts say that they can sense where sunlight is. Plants can also feel water and gravity. While they don’t have brains, they can signal to other plants, warning them of danger. They can also communicate with one another through smell.
These plant experts also say that plants can communicate with insects to survive. Just like any living organism, plants want to stay alive.
In this regard, certain plants emit a particular noise or sound when cut. Some people interpreted these plant sounds as screams. Perhaps, this is why they believe that plants do feel pain.
Do Plants Feel Pain?
In the matter of plants being able to feel pain, there appears to be a divide among two groups of people. One group says that plants feel pain because they are alive. Another group says no, plants don’t feel pain, even if they are living things. How will this controversy affect your regard for plants?
Plants Feel Pain
You may wonder if this statement is just another way of anthropomorphizing plants. But you can’t deny some people believe this statement. Over the years, efforts have been made to prove that this statement is a fact.
“The Secret Life of Plants” by Christopher Bird and Peter Tompkins
One thing that gives life to this statement is a book they say was a best seller in the 1970s.
Its title is “The Secret Life of Plants,” written by Christopher Bird and Peter Tompkins. These book writers truly believed that plants don’t only show emotions but also have some intuition.
They reached their conclusions by experimenting with plants. The two talked to plants, played music to them, and gave them some vibrations and other kinds of stimuli.
However, their discoveries were discredited. So, we are here 50 years later, and still, there is no scientific proof that plants feel pain.
This statement can’t penetrate the main wall that plants don’t have brains. The ability to feel is only possible if an organism has something to interpret it with – or if it has some form of intelligence.
Are trees living things? Since plants and trees don’t have brains and central nervous systems, they can’t have the capability of feeling and reasoning. But there is no question that they are living things.
Plants Respond to Light
However, don’t forget that observations show that plants can twist themselves towards the light. So, they can react where light is. Why are some plants sensitive enough to curl up and close their leaves when touched?
Carnivorous Plants Know the Right Time to Devour Insects
How about carnivorous plants? Why do some of them eat flies? How can they know the right time to devour insects? So, plants may not have feelings. But some display ‘nastic’ and ‘tropic’ responses when stimulated.
Using this statement as their primary reason for being, some plant lovers and advocates have formed the Vegetable Rights Militant Movement. They are promoting the rights of plants to live. Their present protest is centered on oil being kinder to ethanol.
Plants Don’t Feel Pain
In contrast, many people stick to the scientific fact that plants don’t have pain receptors, just like humans and animals. They don’t have brains or nerves, so there is no way they can feel pain like humans and animals do.
So, if you uproot a potato from its hole on the ground or trim a hedge to make your lawn look prettier, you are not committing plant torture. Don’t be worried about eating an apple. It won’t feel any pain.
Plants Can Respond to Physical Signal
But why do some plants seem to communicate and perceive physical damage and stimuli? Some plants, such as the Venus flytrap, obviously have sensory abilities. They can close their traps to catch an insect in just half a second.
Likewise, other plants are susceptible that they quickly collapse or curl as soon as they are touched. Some say it’s a defensive response to herbivores that are scrounging for food to eat.
Electronic Signals Do Not Constitute Pain Signals
Other plants, such as the mustard plant, can send electrical signals to other mustard plants when aphids or caterpillars are devouring them. They send the signals from leaf to leaf to increase their chemical defenses.
All these plant characteristics seem to prove their sensory capacity. However, even if this proves that some plants can respond to physical damage, the electrical signals they send to each other do not constitute pain signals.
Those who have studied this plant phenomenon advise against anthropomorphizing plants to prove that the damage or injury is causing the plant some form of pain.
You can’t deny that plants can respond to water, gravity, sunlight, wind, and insect bites.
Evolutionary Development of Plants Was Not Influenced by Suffering or Pain
However, scientists say we should never forget that the evolutionary development of plants was not influenced by suffering or pain. They are just the simple process of plant life and death.
Again, are plants alive? Plants are living organisms, though they do not have humans’ complex organs. But, like humans, they can eat, grow, reproduce, and move.
More on Plants and Their Feelings
Objectively speaking, it’s wrong to say plants feel pain. If you consider that they don’t have brains or central nervous systems, they won’t be able to feel anything.
A living organism feels pain through its sensory nerve cells. These cells are the same cells that convey information from the senses.
They allow the living being to see, smell, taste, touch, and hear. In humans, they are called the peripheral nervous system. It includes the nerves all over the body, except those in the brain and the spinal cord.
The peripheral nerve cells are formed like a network that transmits messages from the muscles, organs, and skin to the brain and the spinal cord. The brain responds to the messages by sending back signals to the spot where the pain is being felt to encourage the healing process.
Biologists know that our neural systems, and those of animals, are a way of processing information. But they also know that it is not the only way. While plants do not have nervous systems, they can still respond to stimuli.
For instance, when an insect attacks a mustard leaf, the plant sends an electrical signal transmitted from leaf to leaf.
That is their way of warning the other plants so they can be ready to protect themselves. However, this is not to say that this type of response to damage is like the plant feeling the pain.
Plants, unlike humans and animals, do not have nociceptors. These are sensory receptors that automatically respond to pain. In addition, plants do not have brains.
So, they don’t have the means to turn the stimuli into an authentic experience. This is the primary reason why plants can’t feel any pain.
Does a Plant Feel Pain: Simple Answer
When you uproot a carrot, does it feel pain? Do plants feel pain when they are cut and sliced? The current information about the matter is that: no one is sure. What we already know are the following:
- Plants can react to stimuli
- They can feel sensations
- They don’t have brains
- They don’t have central nervous systems
- They don’t have pain receptors
Humans’ and animals’ usual response to pain is ‘fight or flight’ instinctively. Plants can’t do that. They are established where they are until someone uproots them from their location.
Plants can’t run away when being attacked, nor can they defend themselves. There is no biological need for plants to feel pain.
Some people say that it is a possibility that plants are sentient and have some form of intelligence that has not been detected yet. As many have correctly observed, no reputable study was conducted on this aspect.
It is also difficult to see what purpose it would be for plants to feel pain because they can’t run away from danger.
Do Plants Have Feelings? What Does the Science Say?
You may be interested in the findings of several studies conducted by researchers from different United States universities and schools about this topic. Their results may surprise you.
Defensive Chemicals Against Predators
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Missouri in 2014 is often quoted when this topic is discussed. The journal Oecologia has already published this study.
The researchers found that a particular plant can release chemicals that discourage herbivores from eating it.
The study showed that the plant reacted to the sound vibrations produced by caterpillars munching on the plant. As the caterpillar eats it, the plant emits its defensive chemicals.
This study earned the headline of an issue of the Sun newspaper. The report in the newspaper said that the plants’ know’ when they are about to be eaten, and they are not happy. However, the study didn’t claim any such thing.
In other words, they are just the interpretations of the newspaper. The study even states that “the ecological significance of these responses is unclear,” even if the plants could distinguish the difference between the vibrations of the rustling of the wind and the munching of a caterpillar.
Dr. Heidi Appel, one of the study’s researchers, summarized their findings. They wrote that feeding vibrations influenced specific plant cell metabolism changes. The plants produce defensive chemicals that can repel caterpillar attacks.
Respond to Stimuli But Do Not Feel Pain
Another scientist, Professor Daniel Chamovitz, also suggests that plants don’t feel pain even if they can respond to certain stimuli. Professor Chamovitz is connected to the Tel Aviv University of Israel as its Dean of the Faculty of Life Sciences.
The good professor has extensively researched how plants experience life on earth. He is the author of a book entitled “What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses.” Professor Chamovitz talks extensively about plant feelings and believes plants are not inanimate objects.
But in an interview, he also acknowledged that plants could not suffer subjective pain because they don’t have brains. He also believes that plants don’t think.
Plants Do Not Have the Same Pain Receptors as Animals Have
Other studies showed animals could also experience pain’s subjective and emotional aspects. Any animal will physically respond to pain. However, plants, having no central nervous systems or brains, can’t feel pain, as we humans commonly know what pain is.
They do respond to stimuli but do not have the same pain responses as animals, and we have. Plants can’t react in a fight or flight way when a threat will result in pain. No scientific evidence shows they can feel pain the same way we do.
Frequently Asked Questions
There is no doubt that this topic will raise some questions in your mind. Perhaps, by reading the answers to the most often asked questions about this subject, you will find the solution that you are looking for:
Can Plants Feel Pain?
If you are referring to the kind of pain that we humans and animals feel, the answer is no. Humans have brains, central nervous systems, and pain receptors that make them feel pain. Plants don’t have these things in their structure and composition. For that matter, they can’t feel pain as we do.
Do Plants Know That They Are Alive?
Though plants may not feel pain, somehow, they act as if they know they are alive. Some have even claimed that they are conscious of life because they display ‘nastic’ and ‘tropic’ responses to certain stimuli.
They can sense light, vibrations, gravity, and water. Some plant species have some form of defense mechanism. They can send signals to other plants that there is danger nearby.
Do Plants Cry When They Are Cut or Sliced?
Some people who love plants claim that plants want to stay alive like any living thing. They claim that research shows that plants emit a particular sound when cut. These plant lovers want to believe that plants scream when being cut.
Do Scientists Believe Plants Can Feel Pain?
Several scientists have researched this subject. Most of their research findings agree that plants don’t feel pain. They base their conclusion on the fact that plants don’t have central nervous systems, no pain receptors, and no brains that can interpret pain signals.
In Closing: Do Plants Feel Pain and Are They Alive?
For a living organism to feel pain, it should have a brain, pain receptors, and nerves. Plants do not have sensory neurons. They don’t have brains that can interpret sensory feelings. So, plants do not feel pain as we humans and animals do.
If you consider plants’ organic structure, they don’t have any central nervous systems. Without a central nervous system, an organism, even if it is a living thing, will not feel anything. In other words, by cutting a plant or uprooting it, it won’t feel any pain.