From chapter "The Great Chain of Being"
Sometimes, because I eat meat (that doesn’t come from factory farms), vegans have accused me of speciesism. But the truth is quite the opposite. I don’t believe in the Great Chain of Being. I believe that plants are every bit as sentient as anyone else. Human supremacists draw the line of being/not-being between humans and nonhumans, with humans being sentient and having lives worth moral (and other) consideration, and nonhuman animals, not so much. Vegans often draw the line of being/not-being between nonhuman animals and plants, with nonhuman animals being (to varying degrees) sentient and having lives worth moral (and other) consideration, and plants, not so much. I don’t see it that way. I believe that no matter whom you eat, you are eating someone.
Not infrequently, vegans have, seemingly without a sense of the irony of doing so, mocked my and many others’ beliefs in plant sentience using the same scorn, and indeed sometimes the same words, with which many meat-eaters dismiss vegan beliefs in nonhuman animal sentience. Same scorn, same uncrossable line between meaningful subject and meaningless object; the line is merely drawn at a different place.
I try not to draw the line at all. When I was a child I didn’t draw it. I don’t think most of us do. And then I was, like nearly all of us, taught to draw that line, by religion, by science, by entertainment, by art, by day-to-day interactions with those who had themselves been taught to draw that line.
I remember twenty-some years ago I interviewed the great environmental philosopher Neil Evernden. He said he didn’t believe in drawing a line between meaningful humans and non-meaningful nonhumans. I was confused, and curious, and asked him where, then, would he draw the line between those who are meaningful and/or sentient, and those who are not? I’ll never forget the liberation—the homecoming—I felt when he asked, sincerely yet clearly rhetorically, “Why do we need to draw that line at all?”