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Monday, May 12, 2008

Bad News for Vegetarians?

From the Weekly Standard:

You just knew it was coming: At the request of the Swiss government, an ethics panel has weighed in on the "dignity" of plants and opined that the arbitrary killing of flora is morally wrong. This is no hoax. The concept of what could be called "plant rights" is being seriously debated.

A few years ago the Swiss added to their national constitution a provision requiring "account to be taken of the dignity of creation when handling animals, plants and other organisms." No one knew exactly what it meant, so they asked the Swiss Federal Ethics Committee on Non-Human Biotechnology to figure it out. The resulting report, "The Dignity of Living Beings with Regard to Plants," is enough to short circuit the brain.

A "clear majority" of the panel adopted what it called a "biocentric" moral view, meaning that "living organisms should be considered morally for their own sake because they are alive." Thus, the panel determined that we cannot claim "absolute ownership" over plants and, moreover, that "individual plants have an inherent worth." This means that "we may not use them just as we please, even if the plant community is not in danger, or if our actions do not endanger the species, or if we are not acting arbitrarily."

The committee offered this illustration: A farmer mows his field (apparently an acceptable action, perhaps because the hay is intended to feed the farmer's herd--the report doesn't say). But then, while walking home, he casually "decapitates" some wildflowers with his scythe. The panel decries this act as immoral, though its members can't agree why. The report states, opaquely:

At this point it remains unclear whether this action is condemned because it expresses a particular moral stance of the farmer toward other organisms or because something bad is being done to the flowers themselves.

And today I read that England is considering allowing Genetically Modified Children, though they are still opposed to Genetically Modified Plants. Go figure.


JLundell said...

Because they don't eat children in England? I know, it sounds far-fetched. but just maybe....

tomson said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Argent said...

I wonder if we'll reach a point where slurping amino acid labsoup is violating the inherent rights of amino acids.

tomson said...

Sorry. Didn't realize I'd stepped over any bounds.

Mark Swanson said...

Thanks for the apology tomson- I wasn't sure if you were responding to my post or to jlundell's comment, and your point was unclear and rudely worded and I don't know you so I decided to delete.

It was a borderline call, but then, it's the first time I've ever deleted anyone. Attack other's arguments as strongly as you can, as long as you treat the person arguing with respect.

tomson said...

Mark, awfully sorry and I meant no disrespect. I wanted to make the obvious point that to have no impact on other living things one would have to not exist. My original draft used "one" instead of "you", but I thought that sounded high-falutin', so I changed it. Bad move for, as you say, it sounded rude. I need to be more careful. I don't always judge very well how I will be perceived. You are not the first person to take offense.

Thanks for the opportunity to clear my name. I enjoyed your blog. My family has one here:

I invite you to visit and say hello.