Is it natural and ethical to eat the leaves of plants such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage, cress, chard and Brussels sprouts?
This may seem like a crazy question if you have not been following this blog, but, it’s just another step in our ongoing investigation into whether the types of foods that humans eat are natural to eat, and also, whether it’s ethical to eat them.
The reason I’m doing this is because I believe that much of the harm done on Earth, including the compromised health of the planet, humans, animals and plants, is a lot to do with our attitudes towards our food.
We’ve covered food derived from animals, and are working out way up to the top of plants, having started from the roots.
Is it natural?
Can we (human primates, equipped only with our bodies and natural items such as rocks, sticks, soil, fire, etc) grow, gather and eat plant leaves?
Yes, definitely. Picking leaves off plants and eating them is the simplest and most natural thing in the world. Most animals eat leaves, even lions.
Is it ethical?
a) Has it suffered the least harm?
Some people believe that plants feel pain. This is a tricky one. Obviously, it doesn’t manifest in the same way that animals feel pain. There’s no obvious trauma. There’s no blood. So, this is a decision you have to make depending on your own beliefs. But, I believe that the least harm you inflict, the better.
So, it’s better to nip off leaves, so that the plant carries on living and is able to, at some stage, produce seeds and die naturally, than to cut off or pull up the whole plant in order to eat its leaves.
However, some plants are so prolific that you could argue that nature has designed them to be eaten, and providing a certain percentage of the plants are left to produce seeds to make up for those eaten, this also works.
b) Has it had the best life possible?
Only plants that are living naturally in the wild, or grown biodynamically or organically can have had the best life possible.
c) Is this food good for us?
Yes, without a doubt, plant leaves are good for us. They contain protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Dark green leaves have a higher concentration of nutrients than any other food.
Our human primate ancestors would have eaten kilograms of leaves daily. This would mean that they would have browsed, much as gorillas do, constantly, in order to consume several shopping bags worth of leaves. We barely eat a hundredth of this amount. And very little of it is raw. It’s no wonder the human race is so ill.
Here you can watch a gorilla eating leaves:
You’ve heard this before: kale is the new beef! Eat it and be well.
Final verdict – my opinion:
Plant leaves provide the best food for humans, providing enough are eaten. They are natural, and certainly ethical, especially if care is taken to either pick leaves off a living plant, or ensure that enough plants are left alone to produce seeds in a sustainable manner.
What do you think?
Next post: flowers
Image attribution: “Brussels sprout closeup” by Eric Hunt – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Brussels_sprout_closeup.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Brussels_sprout_closeup.jpg