Oysters Are Vegan – The Truth About Bivalves
Can vegans eat oysters? Do bivalves feel pain?
I have a confession to make. As a 5-year long vegan I’m, and have always been, a very avid eater of oysters. I generally eat a handful of oysters after breakfast to supplement with basic level of micronutrients and vitamins.
How did that statement make you feel?
Because truth of the matter is that I lied. Oysters are NOT my food of choice and I have not eaten them since at least 5 years.
Nonetheless is there truly something wrong with eating oysters or bivalves, a class that oysters belong to, in the first place? Today you’ll learn all the rational points if oysters are actually vegan, and if you should eat them – or not.
Trust me, it’s not as easy as you might think and I’ll explain it to you in a new, and different way.
Bivalves are an interesting class of animals, that seems to have been in existence more than 500 million years ago. Which means these badboys are older than dinosaurs and even inhabited our ocean water when there were no freaking trees.
They’re literally the Bear Grylls of nature and there’s a very high chance that these motherfuckers will outlive us all.
So first of all, let’s have some goddamn respect for those badboys.
The name bivalves was given to that animal class, because they essentially have two valves. Two plates around their body which have a similar function as a skeleton, just in their case, the skeleton is on the outside. You always learn something new on my channel.
This is all cool QG, but do they feel pain now?
What matters when it comes to the feeling of pain is a brain, which functions as a processing unit for a nervous stimuli. It’s the brain as a complex unit that interprets a stimuli as painful, not our individual nerve cells.
We know this because when people have lesions in brain areas or spinal cords they have different perceptions of pain.
Bivalves on the other hand, do NOT have brains. Because most of them live quite sedentary lifestyles.
There’s no need for a brain if you’re movement patterns are limited and , yes, brains can even be contra productive for the survival of an organism as they cost a lot of calories. Meaning, maybe some oysters, I focus on oysters now due to reasons of simplicity, even evolved a brain over the course of evolution, but those oysters that did died of due to starvation.
What oysters do have are basic structures of a nerve network and ganglia.
Which can be possibly classified as pre-stages of a brain, but ganglia and brain are not the same thing.
A brain is different than a cluster of nerve cells based on these 6 attributes:
2) it has functionally specialized parts
3) it is bilobar, meaning it has two hemispheres
4) a brain has neurons on the surface and axons in the central core
5) interneurons are more numerous than primary motor or primary sensory neurons
6) there are more multi-synaptic circuits than monosynaptic ones
Meaning the brain is a specialized network involved in controlling an organism, not just a random cluster of nerves.
You can think of the brain as an actual CEO of the body, while those nerve clusters in bivalves can probably be seen as a bunch of low-level managers, with very restricted commanding power.
These nerve bundles fulfil basic stuff, like operating muscles that are closing the valves and probably control some basic level of sensory organs. So while bivalves are indeed capable of reacting to stimuli, due to receptors that measure pressure or surrounding chemicals, these are very, very likely involuntary reactions.
Even ganglia in humans are part of our autonomic, involuntary nervous system outside of our central nervous system.
While I’m not a neuroscientist, ganglia seem to only offer one reaction to a certain stimuli. While a brain offers us a multitude of reactions to a certain stimuli.
To say that bivalves are capable of suffering or feeling pain because they’re capable of reacting to basic stimuli would be foolish. What matters is pain sensation and consciousness, and the fundament for both of those is a brain.
Bacteria for example are capable to move in certain directions based on different concentrations of certain substances, this is called chemotaxis for the fellow nerds here.
The venus fly trap is capable of eating insects that land on them, based on their hair receptors, to classify them as a sentient organism would be foolish.
The vegan society defines veganism: As a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
So by definition eating oysters is not vegan as bivalves are classified as animals. BUT we can not really speak of exploitation and cruelty if the organism does NOT have a brain.
Conclusion – Oysters Are Vegan – The Truth About Bivalves
Basic response to stimuli should not be the fundament to determine, if an animal is vegan or not. What should be the fundament, is a brain.
Because a brain is the fundament for consciousness and suffering.
Our actions do NOT create suffering in the sense of bivalves, because their nerve network is so simple, that it doesn’t allow any interpretation of that pain. So I would not shame a vegan if he would eat an oyster.
It would be weird, because I don’t see any need to eat one and they contain dietary cholesterol, but I probably would not see a significant issue.
I think we should look into using oysters as food for cats or other carnivorous animals. Simply because of opportunity costs. Using oysters is way better than using chickens or cows.
Nonetheless I think bivalves are fascinating creatures, and for the same reason as I would not trample over a beautiful flower that I see next to the street I also would not eat a beautiful yet less-complex being.
In my opinion overall, eating bivalves is not unethical but certainly unnecessary for human consumption.