Vegetables have feelings, too, but there are good reasons for not giving them their commissioner

Alf must have over-imbibed last night, because he thought he heard a news item about someone promising to establish a commissioner for animals, to do for animals what a commissioner for children does for the nation’s sprogs.

Mrs Grumble was assigned to do some googling to dig out the item, so Alf could see who was championing God’s Creatures in this way.

She found the NZ Vegetarian Society not so long ago was prompted by video footage of pig farms – shouldn’t it be hoofage? – to call for the appointment of an independent Commissioner for Animals.

But she did not find any recent announcement of a party pledge to answer the call and deliver the goods.

The footage that excited the Vegetarian Society was taken by an animal rights group, Farmwatch, and showed an intensive factory pig farm where pigs were being plumped up to give Mrs Grumble something to roast for a family dinner.

Overseen by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), the New Zealand Pork Board claims that the ‘PigCare’ rating displayed on pork products allows consumers to be “confident that they are supporting high animal welfare standards”. Under this scheme, any breaches of the Animal Welfare Act are to be reported to the MPI for inspection.

Yet this accreditation was given to products produced by the farm filmed by Farmwatch, which showed pigs in overcrowded, damp, dark pens that were overrun by rats. These conditions were clearly not up to animal living standards, as demonstrated by dead pigs left to rot next to their living counterparts.

Dunno if a few rats tell us anything much.

The rodents have got to dine somewhere and it’s better they dine from the troughs in a pig-pen rather than from a trough of the sort we MPs like to slurp from.

But Vegetarian Society Manager Stephanie Lane says the MPI is not the right body to be governing animal welfare standards.

And so:

The NZ Vegetarian Society is now urging the government to appoint an independent Commissioner for Animals, to ensure the protection of New Zealand’s farmed animals and develop a rating system that consumers can rely on.

While the NZ Vegetarian Society does not endorse the consumption of animals, they acknowledge that choosing pork products from independently audited, free-range brands avoids supporting the cruelty of factory farming.

Factory farm conditions are unsatisfactory for any animal, and the fact that pigs are highly intelligent and social makes this treatment even more appalling. It is commonly recognised that pigs have a cogitative ability similar to that of a three-year-old child.

Let’s get things straight at this juncture: when Alf’s kids were three years old they were smarter than your smartest pig.

Moreover, Alf is dismayed that Vegetarians fail to recognise the hurt they inflict on vegetables so they can be nourished.

Only today, we learn from the Daily Mail that every stroke of your pruning shears could have the average shrub writhing in agony.

Researchers in Bonn, Germany, found plants give off a gas when under ‘attack’.

Super-sensitive microphones picked up a ‘bubbling’ sound from a healthy plant. But this rose to a piercing screech when it was under threat. Even a tiny insect bite could have an effect.

‘The more a plant is subjected to stress, the louder the signal,’ said Dr Frank K¸hnemann.

Plants do not actually scream in pain. But different sounds are heard when the gas they emit, ethylene, is bombarded with lasers.

The research could help to work out which pieces of fruit and vegetables are likely to stay fresh longer, as a cucumber which is starting to go off produces a squealing sound. It could then be separated from the fresher ones.

Alf is by no means surprised.

He recalls reading that carrots don’t die when you pull them out of the ground, but only die when ingested in the stomach, cooked to 60c in hot water or left out to rot.

This startling discovery has serious consequences not only for vegetarians, but also for everyone who is concerned about their health. In the light of the raw milk scandal, it takes on an even greater significance.

In his ground breaking new book, Blinded by Science, author Matthew Silverstone provides impressive scientific evidence that supports these ideas and uncovers new information that shows many other unknown aspects of plants will completely alter the way that you look at life around you. Vegetables turn out not to be the simple objects that we thought they were but are in fact as sophisticated as animals and 100% behaviorally the same as humans.

The Grumbles mused that, on the strength of the serious concerns raised by this science, Alf should promote the idea of establishing a Commissioner for Vegetables.

But whoa.

First, he is strongly in favour of getting rid of such commissioners, along with several ministries that deal in nonsense.

Second, a Commissioner for Vegetables might well find it is difficult to distinguish between some Green politicians and a vegetable. What would come from this confusion?

The idea accordingly has been despatched to the compost heap.

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