Really?? OK, we secretly don't mind this question, and we especially like it when an esteemed newspaper like the New York Times publishes an article covering this topic (in their 'Science' section no less!) . If they can, why can't we? This question allows us to get into a quasi-scientific debate with people and helps us make a few valid points about what's wrong with eating animals in the process.
So let's not waste time mocking the question. It can be a legitimate one (if you put common sense aside). Let's not also get caught up in scientific studies that claim to discover new facts, only to be debunked by the next scientific study. Let's just focus on a few basic questions:
Are plants like animals?
Can cows fly? Seriously, plants are fascinating and complex organisms that exhibit behavior that could be perceived to imply sentience (the ability to feel and perceive, to experience pleasure and pain), but they're definitely not like animals. For example, when a plant is threatened or damaged, it releases chemicals as a defense mechanism. These responses to external stimuli could obviously be perceived to be "behavior", similar to what animals exhibit and therefore lead people to conclude that plants may have the ability to feel and perceive the world around them. However, making an argument for plant sentience is like saying cancer cells may be sentient, because they react to external stimuli and exhibit chemical reactions and processes.