When I was a boy, my father admonished me to never hug a murderer. He wasn’t a very good dad in many respects – he boozed, he philandered, he stole my lunch money – but when it came to the subject of murderers and what not to do with them, I’d have been hard-pressed to find a better parent.

Maybe that’s why today – International Hug a Vegetarian Day – feels so wrong. The lessons of my childhood are deep-seated: I cannot hug a murderer.

Plants may not be sentient, but they are alive, and by my account that puts those who kill and eat them on the same moral ground as carnivores. Does a cabbage not feel pain like us? Does it not cry when it is sad, and laugh when it is happy? Does it not have friends and loved ones that will miss it when it’s gone? Yes, a cabbage does.

Of course, most vegetarians and vegans are not cold-blooded killers, but rather victims of misinformation. They have been duped by plant-hating conspirators to believe that a diet excluding meat is somehow ethical. But murder is murder, be it for red flesh or green.

Dozens of purportedly ethical diets and their associated lifestyles litter the world today, but the vast majority are scams. Provided with the truth, with knowledge of the harm their mouths have caused, many people would change their eating habits.

Fruitarians consume only fruit, the ovaries of a plant. Botanists, the seediest of all scientists, claim that eating fruit aids in the dispersal of a plant’s seeds. Fruit goes in the mouth, nutrients are absorbed into the body, poop goes out the butt and – SPLAT! – the fruit’s seeds are spread across the ground. Admittedly, this benefits the plant, but only the plant’s reproductive success. On an emotional level, it could be devastating. I know that if I had ovaries, I would never want them devoured, and certainly most other people feel the same way. Then who are we to say how a fruit tree feels about its ovaries? Does a fruit tree not have dreams and nightmares like us? Does it not read poetry? Does it not yell when it is angry, and whisper when it is in lecture? Yes, a fruit tree does.

At first glance, cannibalism appears to be a great candidate for an ethical diet. Following a closer investigation, however, it’s clear that eating people is just as bad as eating other animals or plants. Humans are ecosystems for a multitude of other organisms. On my body alone, I can count at least 17 different types of fungus, and I can feel Erica, the name I gave to my four-foot intestinal worm, flopping around inside. If I were to be eaten, the fungi and Erica and her friends might not survive. The risk is unacceptable. Does a parasite not pray when it is worried or tremble when it is nervous, just like us? Does it not apologize when it is sorry? Does it not sit on a chair, lie on a bed, walk on a sidewalk and jump on a trampoline? Does it not complain to its mommy when it has to go to bed early? Yes, a parasite does.

Rocks are the only truly ethical edibles. I myself eat rocks. I’m very careful about washing and removing any organic material on them before each meal. I wouldn’t want to harm any microbes – my compassion for a living thing doesn’t decrease with size. My body may be falling apart, but at least my conscience is whole. Does a rock taste good? No, it doesn’t. Is a rock healthy for me to eat? No, it isn’t. But does a rock cry when it is sad, laugh when it is happy, yell when it is angry or pray when it is worried? Does it read poetry, or sit in a chair? Does a rock feel? Will a rock be missed? No, it won’t.