Can Plants feel pain?

Bruce Hamilton B.Hamilton at
Mon Dec 5 00:29:47 EST 1994

The following exchange is occurring in nz.general and alt.folklore.urban,
mainly between a vegetarian and an opponent. 

While not wishing to get involved in either side, it did set me wondering 
whether the presence of a nervous system is a prerequisite for feeling pain, 
and whether any communication system that causes an organism to 
respond to an adverse stimulus could be considered "pain"  - ( not 
necessarily just electrical, but chemical - either internally, or externally - 
by the release of volatile chemicals that other plants recognise ) 
that causes an organism to respond to an adverse stimulus could 
be considered "pain". 

The timescale isn't important, and I vaguely remember some simple 
microscopic organisms that were considered either plant or animal, did they 
have to show they responded negatively to adverse stimuli to be classed as 

I'm not certain that such a subject is relevant to bionet.plants,
but if any reader knows of a fairly accessible, reputable, 
reference - I would appreciate email of the reference. 

Apologies if this is off topic, suggestions of a more appropriate group
are welcome, as is reference to a FAQ on this - if there is one. 

             Bruce Hamilton 

The saga that started this train of .......
>paul at (Paul Gillingwater)
>>frankie at (Frank Pitt) writes:
>>>paul at writes:
>>>>frankie at (Frank Pitt) writes:
>>>>>A simple text on biology will show you that animals have a nervous
>>>>>system, and can feel pain.  Plants can't.

>>>> Wrong again. You should read that text yourself.

>>>Care to cite a source for your implication, which seems to be either (a)
>>>animals have no nervous system, and therefore feel no pain, or (b)
>>>plants have a nervous system, and therefore feel pain, stranger?  :-)

>>The electrical field's of various species of plants reacted measurably
>>to the killing of shrimps by dropping them in boiling water.
>>This experiment was done using a machine and automatic recorders
>>to eliminate the possibility of a human technician actually being
>>responsible for the surge.

>I've read "The Secret Life of Plants", and frankly, the science in there
>is mostly pretty hokey.  Sorry, but I don't accept references to popular
>books that republish results that would never be accepted in a refereed

>>They are also capable of reacting to creatures that have recently
>>engaged in the destruction of plant or animal materiel, ie: a plant
>>can detect the "sap on your hands" after you've mown the lawn, f'rinstance.

>May I suggest you take these delusions over into alt.folklore.urban.
>I'm sure someone there will be happy to straighten out your illusions.

>>I can't find the reference off hand, perhaps someone will recognise the

>Hopefully I have provided enough information for research.  N'Yuk, n'yuk.

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