Welcome back to the natural and ethical food investigation.
Is eating the roots of plants natural and ethical? We’ve had a look at most of the foods we eat that are produced by animals, and have found that nearly all of them are unethical food sources, and that
most are not natural for the human primate to eat.
So, now we’ve moved on to the plant world. I’m sure some would say that eating plants is ethical, so why are we questioning it. But, in the interests of consistency and truth, the investigation must continue through all the food types. You never know until you look closely, whether something is the way you think it is.
We’re starting from the bottom, that is, plant roots such as carrots, parsnips, potatoes, beetroot, licorice, ginger and cassava. Included are rhizomes, corms and tubers.
I wonder how many people have never eaten a carrot. Some may hate them for being soggy and grey after too much cooking (memories from my childhood) but others may love them for their crispy, bright freshness eaten raw (more memories from my childhood – carrots stolen from the garden).
But, I would think it rare for anyone to not have eaten the root of a plant in some form or other, whether raw, freshly cooked, canned, powdered (ginger) or desiccated.
Is it natural?
Can we (human primates, equipped only with our bodies and natural items such as rocks, sticks, soil, fire, etc) gather, prepare and eat the roots of plants?
In the wild, or from our gardens, there must be hundreds of plants whose roots are staple foods, or delicacies, or have healing properties – or all three. Roots are relatively easy to get at, and can be pulled out by the stem of the plant, or dug out using hands or a stick.
Most roots are edible raw, but some are more palatable cooked, which the human primates could do if they had access to fire, by putting the roots into the coals.
So, yes, eating roots is natural.
Is it ethical?
a) Has it suffered the least harm?
This is a tricky one. The root itself may not feel any pain or discomfort. Modern science has not yet discovered any signs of a nervous system in the roots of plants that could show that plants have a consciousness of pain.
However, certain schools of thought believe that plants do feel some distress when damaged. Whether or not this equates to pain as we understand it, it certainly gives me pause for thought.
For example, the Indian scientist, Jagadish Chandra Bose discovered that “every plant and every part of a plant appeared to have a sensitive nervous system and responded to shock by a spasm just as an animal muscle does” (1).
Watch this video that proves that plants feel something:
The International Laboratory of plant Neurobiology (ILPN) says: “Plants are as sophisticated in behaviour as animals but their potential has been masked because it operates on time scales many orders of magnitude less than that operating in animals” (2)
There is also the point of view of people subscribing to The Forum dedicated to Arunachala and Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi:
“Now there are two reasons to say that vegetarian food is having insignificant sin. Many of the plants like rice, wheat, etc are having life only for one crop time. Once their yield is over, they die naturally, even if we don’t cut them. So by cutting those plants (which have already died) we are doing less sin or no sin at all. In many other plants, like mango, coconut, etc., by plucking the fruit, we are not killing the plants, & are doing very minimal sin or no sin at all. So vegetarian food is less sinful.”
So, you must make up your own mind about this. In short, the way I see it is that if the plant has already died, or if the seed, nut or fruit has fallen from the plant or is no longer dependent upon it, then you should be able to eat the parts, including the root, without causing harm.
Therefore, ripping up a carrot plant, or any plant, is unethical if it is still alive and has not yet had a chance to produce seed.
b) Has it had the best life possible?
Plants that live naturally without being poisoned by pesticides, fungicides and artificial fertilisers should be living the best life possible. Bose found that “administering poisons to tin, zinc, and platinum, and obtained astonishing responses which, when plotted on a graph, appeared precisely like those of poisoned animals.”
c) Is this food good for us?
Most root vegetable are storage organs so contain high amounts of complex carbohydrates, minerals absorbed from the soil (only good organic soil feeds plants well), and are high in vitamin C and beta carotene. This is all good food for humans.
Final verdict in my opinion
Root vegetables are natural food, and eating them is ethical only if they can be sourced without killing the plant, such as with potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and ginger, and depending upon whether they have been grown organically, or not.
So, root vegetables are borderline.
What do you think?
Next post: plant stems