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Scientific proof that Plants feel pain

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Dear brother,

As Salaam Aleikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh.


Your forum is doing a tremendous job by educating people about Islam. May Allah Subhanah reward you the best in this life and the hereafter.


My question is in reference to an answer you provided to some brother for his question(1894 why sacrifice animals).


In your answer you rightly said that it has been discovered that plants too have feelings and that they experience pain. I have a non muslim friend, who is a strict vegetarian, and resents my non veg eating habits. He basis his argument only on one thing, that why should we take somebody`s life in order to eat, and when I argue by saying that he too is doing the same thing by killing plants and eating them, he just does not seem to believe that plants too feel pain, as they don`t have a nervous system


I have searched the net extensively and got another qoute from a very learned man(Dr. Zakir Naik, where he too speaks about the pain felt by plants when cut, but brother, I need proof to make this friend of mine understand this.

Could you kindly provide me with the same?

I shall be very thankful.


Brother in ISLAM.


(There may be some grammatical and spelling errors in the above statement. The forum does not change anything from questions, comments and statements received from our readers for circulation in confidentiality.)




Scientific proof that Plants feel pain

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Dear Brother in Islam, please find accompanying article derived from the internet which prove beyond any doubt that modern science has proved that plants too have feelings. The article has a lot of technical terms and data, and may make for exhaustive reading; but various experiments done in the field of botany has proved that plants do have feelings.


If your friend needs more scientific proof to satisfy his doubts whether or not plants have feelings, we have attached the bibliography for the article presented, and the name of the book which would more than clarify his doubts.


Whatever written of Truth and benefit is only due to Allahs Assistance and Guidance, and whatever of error is of me. Allah Alone Knows Best and He is the Only Source of Strength.



Plants Have Feelings Too

Plants are more than just vegetables, they respond to touch, you can stroke them and they feel it.


An overly simplified way of looking at it is. "All plants have the power of limited movement, which may be as simple as the plant moving because it enlarges as it grows. But with carnivorous plant motion can be extremely fast and striking. Since plants do not have muscle tissue, how do they do it? There are two main movement mechanisms carnivorous plant use. The first kind of motion is what Venus Fly Traps use to close their traps. It involves water pressure. When the trap is activated (by touching trigger hairs on the leaves), the cells on the inside walls of the trap transfer water to the outside walls, essentially they become limp. This snaps the leaf closed.

The second kind of motion is powered by cell growth-- -the tentacles of sundews bend towards prey because the cells on one side of the tentacles grow. This is similar to the way bimetallic strips are used in thermostats." Walker, R (1998).

Slightly more complicated and more accurate. "Touching a trigger hair produces a localised receptor potential in sensor cells which, if sufficiently large, fires a fast-moving electrical wave, an action potential, which spreads across the trap lobes. The trap doesn't move but "remembers" being touched. If a second action potential is fired, the trap shuts.


The workings of a Venus flytrap." Burrell and Ellison (1986)

Darwin was fascinated by carnivorous plants, in particular the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) and its response touch. He believed that the way the plant snapped its trap shut indicated the presence of a central nervous system such as that of an animal but having no equipment or expertise in this field of study he sought the help of one of the worlds leading medical physiologists, Dr

John Burdon-Sanderson of the University College of London.

Over the course of several years (late 1960s - mid 1970s) Burdon-Sanderson conducted many experiments on the Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). The first experiment, and possibly the most remarkably revealing of all, was to attach electrodes to the surface of the trap lobes in the hope of recording electrical activity. He found that each time a trigger hair was touched it fired off a wave of electrical activity almost identical to the nerve impulses, or action potentials, produced by animal neurons. He then carried out the same experiment on other touch sensitive plants, such as the movements of the leaves of the Sensitive Plant (Mimosa pudica) and the curling of the leaves of sundew plants (Drosera) and always found the same electrical activity and electrical impulses.


Both Burdon-Sanderson and Darwin thought that this was evidence enough to prove that plants have some sort of nervous system similar to that of animals, electrical impulses detecting touch and triggering an appropriate response. However other leading biologists and botanists of the time discounted this evidence as ridiculous because, in most animals electrical impulses travel along nerve fibres at speeds between 1 and 100 metres per second, whereas the impulses of most plants travel at speeds between 1 and 10 centimetres per second. But more significantly than this, no plants have any of the usual components of an animal nervous system, there are no nerve fibres, no networks of neurons and no synapses.


Quite a number of universities in the USA continued Burdon-Sandersons investigations from the 1970s right up to today. Now with modern day equipment these plant physiologists are beginning to understand much more than ever before. It was confirmed that the impulses Burdon-Sanderson detected are indeed action potentials similar to those in animals, they are also now beginning to unravel the molecular and cellular reasons of the ability of plants to respond to touch.

Due to today’s greater understanding of molecular and cellular biology it is now clear that animals nervous systems are made up of specialised cells, wired up to communicate through synapses via nerve fibres and networks of neurons. And in contrast the action potentials of plants travel through ordinary cells by means of microscopic membrane pores called plasmodesmata, almost like osmosis. Although animals have a very similar process to plasmodesmata where an action potentials can pass through pores known as gap junctions, which have the same drawbacks as plasmodesmata.


Plasmodesmata and gap junctions have their drawbacks, the signals can only be sent down one route and can only perform one action. For example if you put your hand in a flame the natural uncontrollable response is for the muscles of the hand and arm to contract very quickly removing it from the flame, you will have no control over this action and it will be a second or two before the chemical trigger wears off and you fully regain control of your arm and hand. Likewise if a Venus flytrap is touched but does not catch anything (say it has been pocked buy a pencil) it will close very quickly and it will be several hours before the chemical trigger wears off and it reopens. Plasmodesmata is also a far slower process.


Burrell and Ellison (1986) the biochemical calcium trigger in animals and touch sensitive plants allowing movement "... the main reason for this flexibility is the chemical versatility of synapses through which neurons communicate. When an ion potential reaches the end of most nerve fibres, it can't jump the synapse but instead releases neurotransmitters which fuse across the synapse and trigger an electrical response in the neuron opposite. Using a variety of different types of neurotransmitters and neurons, a nervous system can process signals like a hugely complex telephone exchange, constantly inverting electrical signals into chemical ones and vice versa, by routing messages to different parts of the body. A plant cell communicating through plasmodesmata, by contrast, is much more limited in range and vocabulary: it can only pass electrical signals down one route and turn on one type of movement. There are also important similarities. As with neurons, these signals consist of currents of ions moving to and fro across cell membranes.


Experiments in the 1960s showed that action potentials in the Venus flytrap, Mimosa and similar touch-sensitive plants are all produced by currents of the same ions. In each species, a rapid influx of calcium ions into cells seems to trigger the action potential, and an efflux of potassium and possibly chloride ions appear to sustain it as it travels from pore to pore. The action potentials of neurons are produced in a similar way, they are usually triggered by sodium, not calcium.


Considering its lack of specialised neurons and synapses, the Venus Flytrap's response to touch is surprisingly sophisticated. During the late 1960s, Stuart Jacobson, an insect physiologist Carlton University Ottawa, discovered what appeared to be the equivalent of a special touch sensor in the flytrap. Each time he touched a trigger hair it translated the touch sensation into an electrical "code", in the form of a reduction in the voltage across the membranes of cells at the base of the hair. The harder the blow; the greater this so-called depolarisation, until eventually it reached a critical threshold and triggered the action potential that signalled the trap to close.


Similar mechanisms seem to operate in Mimosa and the Venus Flytrap's underwater cousin Aidrovanda. More intriguingly many animal cells also possess sensors that convert mechanical stimuli such as touch into electrical signals, a prime example being the "hair" cells of the inner ear's cochlea which produce ionic currents when their hairs vibrate in response to sound. Coelenterates such as sea anemones and jellyfish have what is perhaps the closest thing in the animal kingdom to the neural system of the Venus flytrap, a nerve net where touch sensors, nerves and muscles are all connected without synapses.


But the Venus flytrap and its relatives are no botanical oddballs. Touch-sensitive movements occur in more than a thousand species, spread across 17 families of flowering plants, and these, too, probably depend on electrical impulses. Research completed over the past two decades reveals that action potentials trigger the movements of sundew (Drosera) carnivorous traps, Mimosa, Biophytum and Neptunia leaves, and Sparmannia, Berberis and Mahonia flowers. All of which leads to the question, if excitable plants are so widespread, are "ordinary" plants touch-sensitive too?


Because most plants don't move very much, it is easy to assume they are not touch-sensitive. But this assumption is wrong, as one American plant physiologist discovered. Mordechai Jaffe from Athens University Ohio, started off in the late 1960s by looking at a familiar garden phenomenon-how pea tendrils coil around a support. Gently stroking a tendril a few times was enough to trigger the tendril's coiling, redirecting its growth from a fairly straight habit into rapid bending.

Touch-sensitive tendrils are hardly freaks of nature, and in 1973 this spurred Jaffe to look at how more ordinary plants might react to touching. Stroking a plant stem for only a few seconds a day, he found, was enough to stunt the stem growth and widen its girth. The stems began to thicken just 30 minutes after the plants were rubbed. This stunted response helps plants to withstand the buffeting of the wind.


A milestone in this field, Jaffe's research launched a range of investigations, particularly into crop plants. A few years ago, for instance, Norman Biddington and Tony Dearman at Horticulture Research International, Welleshourne in Warwickshire, found that greenhouse-grown lettuce and celery seedlings survived transplantation to the outside much better if they were brushed lightly with sheets of paper. This is partly because seedlings raised closely together in seed trays grow tall and "skinny", whereas plants in the open grow more stunted to withstand the wind. Biddington, Dearman and others have found that touching plants also helps many of them to fight off drought, frost or chilling, although nobody understands how.

The degree of response exhibited by plants is quite marked. In 1990, for example, Janet Braam and Ronald Davis of Stanford University were studying the weed Arabidopsis to examine the effects of hormones on its genes, when they noticed that simply spraying their plants with water stunted their growth by about a third.


Touching can also stimulate plants to cut down their water loss by closing their leaf pores, to delay flower production, and to increase metabolism and chlorophyll production. There are reports from Russia and the US of touch stimulating secretion in flower nectaries and in the Venus Flytrap's digestive glands. Plants also use their sense of touch for sex: as the growing pollen tube penetrates the female's style en route to her eggs, it "feels" its way along the ridges on the inside of the style. Using pollen tubes grown in dishes, Tokufumi Hirouchi and Shozo Suda, of Kobe University in Japan, showed that pollen grows along tiny ridges etched into the glass dishes. Similar sized ridges exist in the female style."


Simons, P (1993) Very little was understood about the molecular level how action potentials spread along the fibres of neurons, until 1981 when two German scientists Erwin Neher and Bert Sakmann invented a revolutionary electrode method called the "patch clamp technique" for this they won the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine.


"The technique, which involves removing a tiny piece of a cell's membrane with the end of an exceptionally fine-tipped electrode, allows researchers to investigate the molecular channels in membranes through which ions flow in and out of cells. By applying voltages to such "patches", Neher; Sakmann and others found that they could trigger tiny ion currents across the patches as specific voltage-sensitive channels opened up in the membrane.


Each channel is a protein embedded in the cell membrane and behaves like a frontier post on a border; only letting certain types of ions across when they receive the appropriate signal-in this case a change in voltage. When sodium channels open up, letting sodium ions enter at a certain point along a nerve fibre, the voltage further along the fibre falls, encouraging more sodium channels to open.


The end result is a wave of voltage change which moves down the fibre, an action potential. In the late 1980s, physiologists using the patch clamp technique also discovered voltage-sensitive channels in the non-nervous tissues that pass action potentials. But the greater surprise, was finding them in animal cells which do not carry action potentials. And just as this revelation was sinking in, voltage-sensitive channels came to light in plants. A group of biophysicists and plant scientists led by Nava Moran at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders at Beltsville, Maryland, discovered the channels in wheat leaf cells in 1984. The subsequent hunt for similar channels revealed that a wide variety of plants possess voltage-sensitive ion channels. So far; no one has looked for such channels in touch-sensitive plants such as the Venus flytrap and its close relatives, probably because the excitable cells in the vascular tissues of these plants are difficult to isolate. But it is likely that their action potentials depend on voltage-sensitive channels, too. If they do, these touch-sensitive plants have the rudiments of a neural system: receptors for sensing touch, cell membranes with voltage-sensitive channels and pore through which cells can communicate electrically.


In animals, action potentials are not confined to conventional excitable tissues such as nerves or muscles. Most epithelial and embryo tissues pass action potentials using gap junctions, and in some cases behave more like plants. Epithelial tissues use calcium ions instead of sodium ions, and embryo cells destined to become nerves or muscles can change their preference for sodium or calcium as they develop.

A very important breakthrough was made in 1991 by Daniel Cosgrave and Rainer Hedrich at the University of Gottingen in Germany when they discovered that stretch-sensitive channels are involved in the opening and closing of leaf pores, or stomata. "Using the patch clamp technique the researchers identified three types of stretch-sensitive channels specific for chloride, potassium or calcium-in the stomata of bean plants. Perhaps it is these stretch-sensitive sensors that make stomata touch-sensitive, closing their pores during windy weather as leaves knock into each other."


Another role for stretch-sensitive channels could be to tell stomata to close when a plant's cells are over inflated with water. In keeping with this notion, many plant cells, such as Chara and Nitella, pass action potentials when they swell or deflate with water. This may mean that stretch-sensitive ion channels help to trigger these impulses. And perhaps these action potentials be a way of ejecting surplus ions and water from cells. Similar ideas have emerged to explain the existence of stretch-sensitive channels in "ordinary" animal cells, and are currently the subject of much investigation. These cells also have an activity that has no apparent purpose: their cytoplasm flows around endlessly in a cycle, sandwiched between the large vacuole in the centre and the plasma membrane towards the outside of the cell. Whenever a Chara or Nitella cell is touched, the streaming movement suddenly stops and then, after a short rest, restarts. Biologists now think they know why the touch stimulus triggers calcium to flow into the cell, dramatically altering the voltage across the cell's membrane and driving in yet more calcium. The calcium flood blocks the actin and myosin protein filaments that power the movements of cells and all their internal components. In animals, an uncannily similar sequence of events leads to the contraction of muscle cells.


Stretch-sensitive channels may also help cells detect pressure and mechanical stress during growth and development. In embryos, for instance, the channels may "sense" when it is time for a cell to divide. Consistent with this, young plant cells start dividing when they become inflated with water.


The idea that action potentials could initiate growth and development in plants is supported by other lines of research. When a sperm penetrates a Fucus seaweed egg during fertilisation, the first recordable event is an action potential, followed later by an electric current driven through the egg via the Sperm's point of entry and out again at the opposite end. The current appears to help establish polarity in the egg, and the first cell division is always at right angles to the current. Similar patterns of electrical growth have been found in a remarkable variety of fungi, plants and animals and are probably universal to all living things.


"Stretch-sensitive channels might explain how plants such as the Venus flytrap detect touch, although there is no direct evidence for this yet. One could imagine that touching a Venus flytrap, for instance, stretches channels in the cell membranes of the trigger hair. These channels would then leak. ions through the membranes, setting off an action potential that travels through the rest of the trap. Incomplete though the picture is, one thing is certain: touch-sensitivity in the plant kingdom is commonplace, and probably ubiquitous. So how did plants evolve this sensitivity?


The existence of voltage-sensitive and pressure sensitive ion channels in both plant and animal cells suggest that plants and animals inherited their ability to sense touch from a common ancestor. Living Signs of this ancestor are abundant. Bacteria, the forebears of all protist, plant and animal life-appear to be capable of responding to stimuli by producing electrical signals.


In 1987, for example, a group of physiologists led by Boris Martinac at the University of Wisconsin found that gently pushing or pulling bacteria sparked off the electrical signatures of stretch-sensitive ion channels, just like those found in plants and animals. These channels probably tell bacteria when to jettison water as the pressure inside their cells increases.


Interestingly the tension across a cell surface is thought to affect cell division in animals as well. Experiments designed to track the cause of asbestos-linked cancer have shown that when cells in culture come into contact with a microscopic asbestos fibre, they fan out until a critical tension is reached, when they start dividing. Water pressure might even control cell shape. Botanists Paula Deschamp and Todd Cooke at the University of Maryland have found that hydraulic pressure in the cells of the water plant Callitriche heterophylla determines which of two different shapes the leaves will adopt: elongated and dissected leaves, or broad and shortened."


This in not only an intriguing subject but also somewhat controversial. Many years ago when it was first suggested that animals may have feeling as well as us humans, there was outrage amongst the religiously inclined,

‘How dare you suggest such a thing, you Heretic! We are the chosen of God, these pigs and cows are provided for us to feed. You will burn at the stake for you traitorous beliefs!!’ they would yell at the unfortunate scientists.

And today do we dare suggest that plants also have feelings? Vegetarians will not eat animals as they have feelings, what now will they eat? And will they start burning scientists at the stake?



Burrell, E and Ellison, J (1986) Plant Physiology, Elsevier Science publishers Co. Inc.

Cole, P (1995)

Lloyd, F.E. (1942). The Carnivorous Plants. Chronica Botanica Co. Waltham, Mass.

Lutz, C. L. and E. Magi. (1980). A preliminary description of Dailinglonia bogs. U.S.F.S.

Meyers, Dr B (1996)

Schuell, D. E. 91976). Carnivorous Plants of the U.S. and Canada. John F. Blair Pub. U.S.A.

Schnell-Schnell-Slack, A. (1988). Carnivorous Plants. Alpha Books Ltd.


Simons, P (1993) The Action Plant, Blackwells



The Secret Life of Plants
by Peter Tompkins (Author)


Your Brother in Islam,





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