This comes up as a question more often than you might think.
Often amid whispers that some mad scientists did an experiment on carrots and found they scream when they are pulled out of the ground.
This form of plant behavior is, of course, attributed to the mandrake in myth and the question do plants respond to stimulation in the same way as we do, with “feelings”, goes unanswered.
What Are Feelings?
The idea of “feelings” is linked to an emotional response rather than a reaction of your central nervous system (CNS).
While plants possess nervous systems, there’s no doubt that they do not have the same chemical response network as we do, nor do they have brains. There’s really no such thing as plant neurobiology either.
In short, plants don’t seem to have any capacity for producing emotions and that should mean that they have no ability to produce “feelings” either.
At least, not in any way that us humans could appreciate.
But does this mean it’s OK to eat plants or are we dooming a sensitive plant to an end of life beyond endurance?
Do Plants Feel Pain?
While plants might not have emotions they do seem to be sentient life forms and that means that eating plants may activate pain receptors in the plant.
After all, if you watch plants grow then you will see them react to things in their environments such as light, carbon dioxide levels, gravity, and water.
However, even if a plant is a higher life form, it has no capacity (that we know of) to produce an emotional response to pain and thus, while they may perceive pain, there’s nothing like the human emotions that turn pain into a form of torture.
Thus, we feel reasonably confident that you can keep eating carrots without disturbing the secret life of that carrot.
What Do Plants React To?
A plant reacts with either a tropic response or nastic responses. That is they can interact with their environment and to, some extent, interact with it.
Such as bending, ejecting material (leaves, spines, etc.) in defense, and so on.
Most environmentally induced interactions are tropic responses.
What About Carnivorous Plants?
These plants are all about nastic responses.
That is they react to touch and can attract other living organisms such as insects to their surfaces in order to survive.
A good example of a carnivorous plant is the Venus Fly Trap.
This plant will attract insects by the use of ultra-sweet nectar and then the plant makes sticky hairs that trap the insect when it lands, these hairs are also triggers, when the insect touches them, it signals the plant to “spring the trap” and the insect gets caught and then digested where it stands.
However, there’s nothing to suggest that any of these interactions are emotional either.
The plant’s cells adapted due to demands from the environment but they didn’t do so out of joy or misery.
Are There Other Plants With Feelings?
No, as far as we can tell by examining what’s known about natural history, there is no evidence that suggests there have ever been plants that could process an emotional reaction to something.
Vegans rejoice! You are not torturing your meals when you consume them.
Humans are meant to consume plants and no matter what your friend told you about screaming carrots, there’s no evidence that this is true.
Plants can sense things about their environment but their response to negative stimuli are very different from our own.
Plants do not seem to have feelings of any kind.