Plant rights

Plant rights are rights to which plants may be entitled. Such issues are often raised in connection with discussions about human rights, animal rights, biocentrism, or sentiocentrism.

Philosophy

Samuel Butler's Erewhon contains a chapter, "The Views of an Erewhonian Philosopher Concerning the Rights of Vegetables".[1]

On the question of whether animal rights can be extended to plants, animal rights philosopher Tom Regan argues that animals acquire rights due to being aware, what he calls "subjects-of-a-life". He argues that this does not apply to plants, and that even if plants did have rights, abstaining from eating meat would still be moral due to the use of plants to rear animals.[2]

According to philosopher Michael Marder, the idea that plants should have rights derives from "plant subjectivity", which is distinct from human personhood.[3] Paul W. Taylor holds that all life has inherent worth and argues for respect for plants, but does not assign them rights.[4] Christopher D. Stone, the son of investigative journalist I. F. Stone, proposed in a 1972 paper titled "Should Trees Have Standing?" that if corporations are assigned rights, so should natural objects such as trees. Citing the broadening of rights of blacks, Jews, women and fetuses as examples, Stone explains that throughout history, societies have been conferring rights to new "entities" which at the time, people thought to be "unthinkable."[5][6]

Whilst not appealing directly to "rights", Matthew Hall has argued that plants should be included within the realm of human moral consideration. His "Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany" discusses the moral background of plants in western philosophy and contrasts this with other traditions, including indigenous cultures, which recognise plants as persons—active, intelligent beings that are appropriate recipients of respect and care.[7] Hall backs up his call for the ethical consideration of plants with arguments based on plant neurobiology, which says that plants are autonomous, perceptive organisms capable of complex, adaptive behaviours, including the recognition of self/non-self.