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Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Vegans Are Coming

Or, what scares plants the most.

Written by Ranjit Lal | New Delhi | Updated: January 19, 2020 8:14:11 am
Ethical Treatment of Plants, Down in Jungleland, Amazon rainforest, TLC, Israeli team, forest, climate change, global warming, indian express news Down in Jungleland (DIJ) took its specially-designed ultrasound mike to interview a gnarled old banyan. (Source: Ranjit Lal)

Recently, there was a headline in a national newspaper on how plants let out ultrasound distress screams when subjected to stress. Apparently, the sound reveals the level of stress of the plant. Now, this has been said before and been treated with suspicion, but this recent research was done by an Israeli team and they’re not given to sentimental twaddle. Down in Jungleland (DIJ) took its specially-designed ultrasound mike to interview a gnarled old banyan, “the tree of knowledge” in a tropical rainforest, on all matters botanical:

Have you heard? It’s been found that plants too scream in distress when stressed.

Veteran Banyan: Of course we do. I’m screaming now! They’re going to build a 200 m wide road running through this forest and chop us all down! It’s taken us over 300 years to become so magnificent and within 30 seconds we’ll be lying flat on the ground!

Does it hurt when the axes bite into your wood? 

Sonny, they’ll probably first hack off our limbs one by one and then bring us down. Imagine that happening to you! If you have sap running through your veins, you are going to bleed! They have earmarked over 150,000 trees for this slaughter. Do you know how many millions they massacred while building their precious dams and Metros? It’s nothing less than botanical genocide!

You know the Amazonian rainforest is on fire — and the rulers of Brazil, like Nero, are fiddling.

Be it on their own heads! Look at what’s happening in Australia!

The authorities there say they are going to plant five or 10 trees for every one of you gone. So, in a way, you are all martyrs.

Bah! Where are they going to put these new trees? On wastelands! Who’ll look after them? We run the whole planet and feed you all and this is the thanks we get. You can’t even make food out of sunlight, air and water!

(With a hollow laugh) So, naturally, we eat you.

You first plant some of us in your gardens and give us TLC. Then you just rip us out by our roots, scrape our skins off before eating us raw! Others you boil alive or fry in oil. Our juicy, sweet fruit is bitten into without so much as a by your leave. Seeds are roasted alive till they virtually pop!

Ah, yes, but fruits are deliberately sweet, red and juicy so that they get eaten and their seeds spread around. 

Yes, but you pluck fruits while they are still raw and then subject them to chemical treatment to ‘ripen’ them. You fiddle with our genes so that every banana looks and tastes alike, or, sometimes, even like an orange!

But we do medicate you so insects can’t eat you and so that you grow fast and strong.

Insects can’t eat us maybe, but you can! I tell you where’s the PETP when you need it?

What’s that?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Plants! Have you seen how casually people passing under trees or alongside bushes just rip our leaves because it amuses them? How ladies cut off flowers and arrange them in their homes? When a journalist asked George Bernard Shaw if he didn’t have any flowers in his house because he didn’t like flowers, he said, ‘Madam, I like children too, but I don’t cut off their heads and arrange them in vases in my house!’

You do defend yourselves by producing thorns, spikes and poisonous chemicals like tannin, don’t you? 

Sure, we do, but we need to go a long way! All over the world, the cry’s gone out: ‘The vegans are coming, the vegans are coming!’ Doesn’t bode well for us! All of us need to produce poisons as lethal as those produced by some of the plants in the Amazon rainforest.

What causes you the most stress?

When we’re abused for no good reason — when beautiful flowers are plucked to be strung into garlands which are slung around the greasy necks of politicians. But there’s something worse…


When besotted young men pluck a flower and one by one shred its petals mumbling, “She loves me, she loves me not!”

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