Sap and Blood: “Combustible Matter” and “Enlightened Matter”

abejas-ocultas-en-flor-any-aboglioIn Sap and Blood: Other Lives, Other Deaths of 2001 [1] my aim was to answer those who –claiming that plants could also “feel”– believed that it was morally acceptable to feed from non–humans since a killing would always be involved nevertheless. I stated that this comparison is incorrect but, should it be correct, the logic of their concern would have to lead these people to stop killing non–humans and plants altogether. Therefore, they could agree to a diet based on fruits and seeds. However, the arguments and comments that arised from such comparison overshadowed my main purpose: to show the absurd of the omnivore solution suggested by those who made such comparison.

What is true up to nowadays is that vegetables do not have skin recipients of pain, or endorphins to relieve such pain, or a brain that can produce a consciousness of themselves, as found in the animal world. Their perception is of energetic origin and does not address to a self that “feels.” Vegetables answer actively and conveniently to the environment in order to survive and reproduce in life, but they do not have a self–consciousness since they do not have a nervous system developed enough to create such possibility. Even in animals that have a nervous system but no a brain, like hydras and anemones, evidence of their capacity to react towards pain was found. Nervous systems with incorporated brains produce sensitivity to both pleasant and unpleasant stimuli, and they also provoke emotions such as happiness, sadness, peace and fear. Physical pain is also an alarm that warns us that our lives might be in danger. In fact, in the case of a congenital illness characterized by the absence of pain, a child may hit his head and continue playing as if nothing had happened, in which case no warning of the consequences of the blow, including death, would exist. In this strange illness severe self–mutilation is very frequent. Little we would survive in life if we could not feel any pain. Having the possibility, allowed by the human language, to think over our thoughts –thus allowing ethical questions– is what makes us connect our pain to known or suspected danger toward our lives. If we are told that bearing one minute of pain is the price to pay for not dying on the following day, we will probably feel that minute as seconds and bear that pain stoically. How big the difference would be if we recognized with certainty the feeling of small and insignificant pain as the sign of a sure and prompt death. However, a baby may not know at all the danger of its pain, but feel it nonetheless. The same happens with non–humans, and consequently it does not matter how big the range of emotions and feelings connected to such pain is, or if such emotions even exist. The emotions of animals, as can be easily observed in cats and dogs, show a great difference with vegetables, which can produce adaptive strategies in order to reproduce themselves more effectively but are unable to “feel fear,” for example.

The difference between animals and vegetables places the latter in the living nature category, where human and non–human animality exists as well. Plants, however, are certainly not of death nature. Understanding the scheme of life is part of the necessary sensitivity to respect such life, and to allow each being to get what belongs to them. I believe this approach is useful since it is an argument in favor of the holistic vision of animal life that rejects the reductionist Cartesian paradigm in which experimentation with non–human animals in laboratories is engraved and supported by orthodox medicine.

Life in general terms exists even in the absence of consciousness. Life exists even without any kind of neurological activity. That is the case of fungi, microbes, and plants, where life is identified by that unit that characterizes all of them: the cell. This notion of life encloses certain features: it is a product of reproduction and evolution, and it uses energy to store information and maintain the organization of its structure.

With the brain function of every animal that has a nervous system, consciousness takes place. Consequently, life acquires a new meaning. Every animal shares this individual life that enables sensation and sensitive and emotional exchange with everything and everyone that surrounds them.

From this point of view, the alive carries an energy that makes up its vitality and its physical–chemical state, and that is placed to fulfill its aims. I have seen the repetitive swinging of a tendril that for hours and hours swayed towards a branch around which it would coil later, higher than the stem where it was born. At times it would stay still for seconds in the air, like when we hold out a hand and almost reach something, but then, facing the impossibility to reach it, we hold back to rest a moment and get up speed. Accordingly, the tendril that was stretched backwards and standing still despite the strong breeze would fall to the stem in order to restart its swinging and insist on its aim. On the following day, the tendril was already embracing the branch of the tree and beginning to coil up into a strong knot. Undoubtedly, the plant was somehow processing the information, even if it had no eyes to see the branch. The Indian licorice is so influenced by electricity and magnetism that it is used to measure weather changes. [2] Many green examples could be provided until we reach the example of water. This physical substance, considered by the Greek as a live super–organism, produces crystal nucleuses when it freezes. When photographing these crystals, a difference has been found in the hexagons that are formed, in terms of whether the water was pure or chlorinated, or whether the water had been under the influence of certain music, or a certain type of human thought. Apparently water “likes” Vivaldi more than Heavy Metal, given the harmony of the crystals when exposed to the vibrations of the different types of music. [3] Homeopathic remedies are nothing but pure energetic information saved in the memory of the water. The possibility of saving information creates a water memory that shows the effect of the resonance that connects all the life in the world. Nonetheless, we do not say that water enjoys listening to harmonious music, or that water may prefer one type of music to another, but we do say that energy intercommunicates among everything that lives, and that suffering, pain and everything that we do and think influence our environment in many ways.

The people who want to still believe that plants feel –even when there is no biological proof that confirms self–consciousness in plants, as opposed to animals–, and that therefore these plants do not want to suffer and want to live, should not only stop eating other animals but also stop eating plants as well, and therefore survive on a diet based on fruits and seeds. However, if said people resolve to keep eating vegetables despite their beliefs, then they cannot resort to those beliefs in order to keep using those who are certainly known –scientifically and by common sense– to feel, and who therefore have the right to not being used as things. However, I do not believe that they really think in that way: none of those individuals really believe that stepping on grass is the same as stepping on their cat. The truth is that the vegetable world cannot be matched to the animal world for the self–interest that animals hold.

The sap of the Peruvian tree Drago (Croton Lechleri), like the Dragon tree (Dracena Draco), native of the Canaries, turns red and curative when it comes into contact with air, but is still sap nonetheless. The truth is that in the evolution process, in the poetical words of Paul Claudel, life is fire. Life prepares combustion in vegetables and enlightens in animals. For that reason, “If vegetables can be defined as ‘combustible matter’ then animals are ‘enlightened matter.’”

February 2008.

 Por Ana María Aboglio. Traducción: E. Tajalli.


[1] ABOGLIO, Ana M., Sap and Blood: Other Lives, Other Deaths. Available at:

[2] TOMPKINS, P y BIRD, C., The Secret Life of Plants (La vida secreta de las plantas). Ed. Diana, 1980.

[3] EMOTO, M y FLIEGE, J., The Healing Power of Water (El poder curativo del agua). Ed. Obelisco, 2006.

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