November 10, 2008
Switzerland has long been known as a safe place for foreigner’s cash but did you also know it’s a safe haven for dogs, goldfish and rutabagas?
In a Wall Street Journal article, writer Gautam Naik notes that Swiss citizens seeking to own a dog must first undergo a four hour course of instruction, anglers must learn to catch fish “humanely” and goldfish can’t be first flushed down the toilet without first being anesthetized! Fish also can’t be kept in totally transparent aquariums because it affords them no privacy. Rhinoceroses cannot be kept in small enclosures either, although one wonders how many rhinos there are in Switzerland!
Switzerland long ago granted new rights to all “social animals” and now they are extending many of those same right to plants. According to writer Naik, in response to genetic engineering, in the 1990’s the Swiss Constitution was amended to defend the “dignity” of all creatures, including all plants! Geneticists are now legally required to conduct their research and plant trials without “trampling on the plant’s dignity.” In response one scientist assured the government that he would not “disturb the vital functions or lifestyle of the plants.” Who ever knew that wheat and cabbage had a lifestyle? I can just see a new television show in the making: Lifestyles of the Green and Leafy!
A 22 member team of philosophers, lawyers, theologians and geneticists convened to establish the meaning of “plant dignity” and they came to the conclusion that it’s immoral to “decapitate wildflowers without rational reason.” The group also felt that the plant’s independence and reproductive ability must be ensured at all times, although they took no stance on plant abortions. Some committee members did, however, feel that plants do indeed have feelings and can feel pain. This despite the fact that plants do not have central nervous systems of which we are aware.
Plant dignity is something I think a lot about and I really don’t think the Swiss have gone far enough in giving dignitary status to plants. Just think of the way we treat vegetables, for instance. We harvest them without any form of anesthesia, pack them in crates and boxes indiscriminately, haul them in exposed trucks without any form of restraint and then display their naked bodies in the grocery store in ways that would humiliate any pompous pea pod. It’s enough to make any unripe tomato turn red with embarrassment. How would you feel if you were a head of noble cauliflower and was placed in a bin between a bunch of tubers and Brussels Sprouts?
Then there are all the undignified things we do to vegetables once we get them home. For a carrot can there be anything more mortifying than being peeled, chopped and dropped into a blender to have their poor bodies minced until there’s is nothing left but their own carrot blood? Vegetarians and juicers should hide their heads in shame.
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Can you imagine anything more undignified than a young bean spending its entire life aspiring to end up in a can of pork and beans, where it might mingle with meat, only to end up in a three bean salad lying next to some limp lettuce, bok choy and endive? And where’s the dignity in a soybean ending up as a brick of tofu? I ask you, how much dignity are we affording broccoli or beets when we blanch them in boiling water, freeze them, and then thaw and boil them yet again until they scream out in pain like a boiled lobster? Am I the only one who hears their screams?
Then there’s the ultimate indignity of ripping kernels of corn from their cobs and feeding them to cattle where the kernels are assaulted by not one, but four stomachs, before coming out the other end as something as undignified as… well, you know.
And we haven’t even begun to think about the loss of dignity of the poor fruits and nuts in Switzerland who everyone is laughing at and making fun of right now.
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