Over the years, there has been much debate over whether or not plants really feel pain like animals and humans do. You may have heard that plants, including vegetables, actually “scream” when they are cut. But is this true?
Yes, actually it is. Plants do scream when you cut them. It’s just at a frequency that humans are incapable of hearing. However, a plant’s scream is not a reaction to pain, but rather, a response to a threat that serves to alert other nearby plants. Plants are not being tortured when they are cut, as they do not feel pain.
We understand that such an explanation might seem a little convoluted, but don’t worry. We’ll cover in detail everything that you need to know about vegetables screaming when they are cut, why they do it, and what it really means.
What is a Vegetable’s Scream, and Why Do They Do It?
On the surface, the notion of a plant “screaming” as it is cut sounds very cruel. But it’s important to understand that the entire phrase is very misleading from the perspective of humans. A human would scream while being cut because we are in pain. However, we experience pain due to having a nervous system. Plants do not have this.
This means plants do not feel pain. They don’t have a nervous system or a brain. So then, what’s with the scream? Well, plants are not sentient, but like most organisms, their primary goal is to survive as a species. This means being able to react to dangers appropriately, even if the reaction only helps other members of your species, not yourself.
When certain vegetables are stressed, they will emit an ultrasonic sound undetectable to the human ear that warns other plants of the same species that there’s some sort of hazard afoot. This is the “scream.” However, plants can be stressed for all sorts of reasons, including drought, insects, suboptimal weather conditions, and more.
This ultrasonic warning serves to tell other plants that they should do something about a perceived hazard. Certain plants have certain defense mechanisms that they can use in response to, say, pests or lack of water. This is the sole reason vegetables or any plant screams when it is being cut, although there’s no defense against that.
Is It Cruel to Cut Vegetables If They Scream?
No, it isn’t. As mentioned previously, plants do not feel pain, because they do not have a nervous system or a brain. Not only are they unable to process pain of any sort, but they do not possess any form of sentience. They are living organisms, but they don’t have thoughts, feelings, or desires. Their reactions to particular stimuli is an evolutionary trait, nothing more.
A plant may have evolved to “scream” when under stress so other plants can react to that scream, but it’s not suffering or even aware that its “life” is in danger. It is simply stimuli and a reaction, something that every computer is just as capable of through programming. It’s just that plants were programmed by evolution.
Imagine that your computer gets malware on it, and you get a warning message telling you that something is wrong. Is the computer in pain? Does it know that its existence is being hampered or threatened? Is the error message a cry for help, begging to be saved from suffering? No, it is merely a programmed response to a particular stimulus.
It is exactly the same for plants. They do not think, feel, want, or possess any awareness of existing. They are just organic computers, doing what evolution programmed them to do. You are not hurting a sentient organism or inflicting any sort of suffering when cutting a plant, just like a car isn’t feeling pain just because the airbag deployed after a crash.
Do All Vegetables Scream?
It should be noted that, as of right now, it is not scientifically confirmed that every species of plant in the world screams when it is cut. However, tests have been conducted on many different species, including Cucumbers, melons, apples, tomatoes, bananas and more. But it’s unclear whether or not all plants do this.
After all, evolution is a fickle mistress, and the way different species develop can often vary wildly, even if they seem similar on the surface. Just look at how immensely different birds as a group are around the world. So until every plant is tested, which is probably never going to happen, there’s no way to say with certainty that all plants scream when cut.
Of course, even if they did, you’ll never hear it, and you have no reason to feel bad about it, for the reasons we mentioned above.
Should You Cut Plants That Aren’t Vegetables?
OK, so you kind of have to cut vegetables in order to eat them in most cases, so there’s no getting around that. But what about other types of plants? If it is considered stress, should you cut potted plants, flowers, or other types of household plants like ferns or bonsai trees?
Well, yes, you should. In fact, that type of cutting is called pruning, and when done correctly, it’s usually quite beneficial for a plant. For instance, plants often have dead or dying parts on them: leaves that are falling off, branches that are dead, etc. These dead or dying parts get in the way of new, fresh growth that could replace them.
In such cases, cutting off the dead or dying parts will actually help the plant remain healthy and grow more fully. Even so, it may still react by “screaming” simply because being cut is not a natural thing a plant perceives as harmless. But even though it screams, you’d actually be doing the plant a favor.
All in all, just remember, “scream” is a pretty inaccurate term for this phenomenon that makes things sound way worse than it is. A plant’s scream is more like a tornado siren than an outcry of pain and suffering from a living thing.