Monday, 21 April 2008

Commission ascribes dignity to spinach

A federal ethics commission issues a paper, declaring that spinach has a dignity, and therefore certain behaviours against spinach should be regarded as morally not acceptable. A spinach-hating child, for instance, is not allowed to tear out spinach plants in mother's garden wantonly. The reason, according to the commission, is not the damage of this vandalizing act to the gardening mother, but the dignity of the spinach plants. In contrast, tearing out spinach plants for eating them does not hurt their dignity. The commission does not comment on the influence of cooking versus eating as salad on the dignity of spinach plants.

Does this sound like a joke? Maybe, but it really happened last week in Switzerland. Our Federal Ethics Commission is a panel of reputed philosophers, theologians, biologists and physicians. And it came, unanimously, to the conclusion that plants have a dignity that is to be respected. The spinach example is mine, not theirs, but I derived it from their own examples because I find spinach more fun than, say, beautiful flowers by the wayside. Dignity must not depend on beauty, in my view.

It seems that the philosophers and theologians have been the leading spokespersons in these discussions and that the natural science fraction has not managed to keep things down to earth.

Our leading weekend TV satire show has tried to apply the plant dignity guidelines in everyday situations. It was a real fun. For instance, the show introduced a papa tomato and a mama tomato, together with a couple of cherry tomatoes, as a family. After some heart-warming, humanizing talk, one of the anchormen outed himself as a cruel child eater. And his fellow, after peeling an onion, broke out in tears, stating that he knows now why we all weep when violating the dignity of these veggie beings.

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