Vegetable rights? Why not?! Naturally as vegans, we only eat plant-based foods, so we are not directly or indirectly responsible for any animal deaths. However we are still killing living creatures by eating plants! How many of you get sick to death of the facetious comments from meat-eaters, when you tell them you are vegan, along the lines of: "What about all those carrots [or insert other vegetable name here] that you are ruthlessly killing?!" Thinking that they are being really witty and hilarious. Well, it' s true, we are killing and eating other living creatures, i.e. plants, but the big difference is, they are not sentient, unlike animals (they do not have brains and central nervous systems, so presumably are not capable of suffering in the same way). Even so, I believe that scientists have proved that plants have a certain primitive, low-level sentience, that they can sense certain threats and attacks. That being said, it surely still cannot be comparable to animal awareness.
There is a chapter about this subject, entitled "Taking Life", in the book about love, relationships and spiritual awakening, Setting Your Heart On Fire ,by Raphael Cushnir. I particularly like this quote: "In order to live you must kill. There's no way around it. If you become a vegetarian, your every meal will require the slaughter of innocent plants. You may think of plants as less conscious than animals, and therefore a better dietary choice, but such reasoning doesn't mitigate the murder.......Faced with the reality that living life means taking life, love as always counsels acceptance. Opening to the killer you are allows you to kill with awareness, to find your own unique distinction between necessary and avoidable death." To me, and I am sure to all other vegans, the avoidable deaths are the ones of the billions of animals cruelly killed for food all over the world.
Next time a non-vegan points out to you all the plants you are ruthlessly killing, why not point out to them all the plants and animals they are ruthlessly killing? Because they are also eating plant foods, presumably, as well as meat and dairy, and in addition, the animals they eat have also eaten a lot of plants, before they themselves were killed for food! So we vegans have still only done about half as much harm as omnivores have: the lower down the food chain you eat, the less you have to kill. Because really our diet and lifestyle is all about damage limitation, isn't it? We can't avoid doing some damage to the earth and other species, however well-intentioned we may be. All we can really try to do is be as compassionate as we reasonably can and try to tread lightly upon this Earth.
Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)