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Updated: 05/06/08

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by Dan Simmons

plant (still)


Tuesday, 06 May, 2008

Just when I thought I had heard everything, the Swiss come up with something completely off the wall:

Swiss lawyers are elaborating the doctrine of vegetable rights. "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." In short, they are arguing that plants have inherent rights which humans can't transgress. It sounds ridiculous. Why should we care? But we should.

A 24 page PDF edition of the committee report can be read here. One of the arguments for plant rights is that vegetables are members of "collectives". But beyond that, each individual plant has inherent worth, rather in the way that men used to have. Therefore the committee concludes that "it is unanimously held that plants may not be arbitrarily destroyed ... the majority considers this morally impermissible because something bad is being done to the plant itself without rational reason and thus without justification."

The point of legally empowering vegetables is not to give standing to a stalk of celery who might suddenly decide to appear in court, but to empower the bureaucrats and activist lawyers who will appear on their behalf.

This really doesn't have anything to do with what plants think, want or feel, but allows additional nanny-state meddling into all sorts of new venues. It is rather frightening that the Swiss added the aforementioned language to their constitution before actually, um, determining what it meant, thus leaving it to the lawyers to wrangle some context out of it.

But of course I liked the part that reads, "vegetables are members of collectives", bringing to mind the peasant scene from Monty Python and The Holy Grail:

ARTHUR: How do you do, good lady. I am Arthur, King of the Britons. Who's castle is that?
WOMAN: King of the who?
ARTHUR: The Britons.
WOMAN: Who are the Britons?
ARTHUR: Well, we all are. we're all Britons and I am your king.
WOMAN: I didn't know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.
DENNIS: You're fooling yourself. We're living in a dictatorship. A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes--
WOMAN: Oh there you go, bringing class into it again.

Just replace the word "Britons" with "Swiss" and I think we're good.

Quote du jour:

"Help! Help! I'm being repressed!"

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

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