A Vegetarian's Worst Nightmare: Vegetables Know When They're Being Eaten!

Nooooo! (Credit: ThinkStock)

Nooooo! (Credit: ThinkStock)

My fellow vegetarians: You know how you thought you were kind and benevolent for abstaining from animal products? Well, you were wrong. We were wrong.

Put that salad away—murderer

That's right. According to research conducted by the University of Missouri, plants know when something is eating them, and even try to defend themselves.

I realize this doesn't sound legitimate whatsoever, like something out of The Onion, but the research is sound and from a reputable source. Here's what went down: Scientists rounded up some thale cress, and tested to see how the plant reacted to vibrations. They also recorded sounds that plants would be exposed to in daily life, like wind, and played them back to the plants. When exposed to the vibrations and many of the sounds, the plants were mostly like, "IDGAF."

But upon hearing the recording of a caterpillar eating a plant, things got dire. When the vulnerable thale cress heard this, it emitted a mustard oil, which is disliked by caterpillars. So the mere sound of the eating essentially freaked it out. 

This finding pretty much fundamentally ruins my vegetarianism. Thanks for nothing, scientists.

Though it differs from person to person, cruelty was my initial inspiration for becoming a vegetarian. I stood, at the annoying age of 15, outside Macy's in San Francisco's Union Square while rocking a jacket with fake fur on the hood (remember those?). I couldn't find my mom, I didn't have a cell phone, and my friend had been hooked up to a kooky machine that we later learned was a Scientology e-meter. So, I was a bit on edge already.

Then, from out of nowhere, two women from PETA stormed up and began yelling at me for wearing fur. I tried to explain that the fur was fake, but they kept yelling. At which point, they held up a monitor (because this was before iPads) and played a looped video of a chinchilla getting its fur ripped out. The chinchilla whimpered, cried, twisted, and generally looked like a victim of the Spanish Inquisition. The women shifted the monitor when I turned my head. I mean, it wasn't quite Clockwork Orange status, but it was way intense for a young teen. I cried. They yelled. I cried some more.

In retrospect, the whole thing is hilarious, but at the time I was genuinely freaked out. Less than a year later, I became a vegetarian, and I haven't looked back. 

Maybe I'm absolutely insane (likely), but learning about this research brought me back to that horrifying moment in Union Square, when some activists made me feel like a monster. I'm hurting plants! I'm a terrible person! I ate a salad earlier today and cringed with almost every bite. Sure, the leaves were no longer attached to the plant—but come on! The sweet little lettuce leaves knew they were being cut. They felt it. And what if leaves can feel pain briefly even after being detached? In that case, I'm an abhorrent torturer and I hate myself. 

Perhaps it's time to launch the PETA of plant murder?

Oh, and here's a video: 



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