Eating an oyster as bad as eating a cow?

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Mick Peslo
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Eating an oyster as bad as eating a cow?

Post by Mick Peslo » Thu Oct 25, 2018 10:39 am

You claim to be a vegan yet somehow eating an oyster is a minor indiscretion? Could you please describe the philosophy between a juicy cow steak being off limits yet an oyster being a self contained life form being ok to neck...? Everyone claims eating an oyster is harmless like picking a strawberry however if I was an oyster waiting for my guts to be ripped open I'd probably have a moan too....

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Post by Jamie in Chile » Thu Oct 25, 2018 6:51 pm

Cows are definitely sentient beings with feelings, pain, thoughts etc, whereas oysters are less sentient or not at all. Cows also cause more environmental problems.

Also, vegans don't usually eat oysters anyway and strictly speaking by definition cannot.

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Post by esquizofrenico » Thu Oct 25, 2018 11:17 pm

This is the kind of emotional discourse that does so much damage to the vegan cause. I can make the argument "if I was a rock waiting to be smashed by a hammer, I'd probably have a moan too". We cannot and should not personalize beings that cannot have any kind of experience. I don't know anything about the whole oyster debate and I have no interest in eating oysters, so at a personal level I couldn't care less about how it turns out. But what the other side is saying is that oysters do not have any kind of individual experience and therefore have no intrinsic moral value. If this is true, it's evident to me that eating oysters is completely consistent with rational veganism.

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Post by Jamie in Chile » Fri Oct 26, 2018 11:07 am

The reason eating oysters is not vegan is because veganism is defined, strictly speaking, as not eating animals products and oysters are animal products.

Also, some vegans feel that it is better to avoid all seafood on the basis of the benefit of the doubt argument about sentience.

However, if we set aside semantic definitions of veganism, it isn't clear that there is much of a moral argument at all against oysters - if any.

I don't care whether people eat oysters or not.

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Post by brimstoneSalad » Sat Oct 27, 2018 12:44 pm

If oysters aren't sentient, then you wouldn't have a moan as an oyster. Just like you wouldn't and couldn't have a moan as a rock.

That's the distinction.

I think it's useful to talk about the difference between veganism and ostroveganism, because it basically helps people learn about these contexts and shows there are multiple ways to eat ethically and it isn't just about veganism, but it's kind of a trivial issue morally (more of a practical issue of public education/perception).

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Post by Margaret Robinson » Wed Nov 28, 2018 6:25 am

I don't think everyone sees oysters as akin to strawberries. I avoid them and similar sea creatures because to me it's a slippery slope argument. If I start eating shrimp, for example, soon I'll want to eat crab and lobster, and eventually I'm back to being an omnivore, only then I'd be one who tells everyone they used to be vegan.

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Post by carnap » Sat Dec 01, 2018 1:38 pm

I think topics like this show that veganism is just a lifestyle doctrine rather than an ethical position. Early veganism was in part motivated by specific ethical ideas but the lifestyle has gained a life of its own and now adhering to the lifestyle is the most important thing.
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Post by PsYcHo » Sat Dec 01, 2018 9:11 pm

Mick Peslo wrote:
Thu Oct 25, 2018 10:39 am
Could you please describe the philosophy between a juicy cow steak being off limits yet an oyster being a self contained life form being ok to neck...?
Hello Mick,

I'm not a Vegan, but they let me hang around, and I do eat oysters.

For me personally, while I accept that an oyster may have some degree of sentience, I don't believe that it is evolved enough to feel emotions or pain on a significant level. A cow can show happiness and pain; an oyster may shrink away from stimulus, but no more (In my opinion)than certain plants do when harvested.

I try to live by a weird code of consumption- If I can eat it's offspring in front of it, and it doesn't care, I'll eat it. (I don't suggest trying to eat a calf in front of a cow.....bulls aren't the only bovine that kill...)
Alcohol may have been a factor.

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Post by Canastenard » Sun Dec 02, 2018 8:40 am

Yesterday I heard at the TV a comedian making fun of vegans with, you know, the typical unfunny kind of clichés, and I found ironic that he mentioned in his show oysters poured with lemon juice considering it's the kind of animal that actually may not fall under the minimum criteria for ethical consideration from vegan ethics.

I know there's the article from The Animalist that explains the neuroscience behind the emergence of consciousness and how it relates to sessile bivalve consumption but reading it never really convinced be that some animals (other than sponges to which I never really gave the benefit of the doubt) may be okay to raise and kill due to not having a nervous system complex enough to achieve sentience; what made me more comfortable with the idea was a video from a French MD which showcased several different mindless reflexes (, which shows that relatively complex behavior doesn't need a mind to be explained even when there's a nervous system. So considering the range of action sessile bivalves is very limited, it makes sense to think that their behavior can be entirely explained with mindless reflexes.

The joke from the comedian I mentioned above inspired be to search "do oysters have feelings" on Google and I found two articles with arguments I'd like to see being discussed:

1. ... s-mussels/
This is PETA which we know very well to be a crazy organization overall. It supposedly shows what oysters can do, which sounds like it suggests their cognitive abilities, but the arguments cited are not all about that.
1. If eyes are windows to the soul, then scallops are very soulful. They have eyes all over their bodies to help them see and escape from predators.
Eyes are organs which specialize in capturing the outside's light to transmit information to the organism, but eyes themselves don't transform light into a mental image; they only transform it into an electric signal that may be transformed into a mental image in the central nervous system.

This part mentions scallops which unlike oysters are motile, and I don't feel comfortable with the idea that their movement might be a set of reflexes. However, according to Wikipedia (, their nervous system is similar to that of oysters, with three ganglia controlling the animal's behavior, so unless there's a significant difference between how the ganglia work, then I'd tend to think it's either both that are sentient or neither.
2. Similar to turtles, when oysters sense danger, they hide inside their shells, which snap tightly shut.
It might obviously be similar when it comes to basic appearance, but suggesting the mechanism is the same sounds like an exaggeration. Turtles definitely hide out of fear, but a sudden change of lighting seems enough of an explanation for an oyster.
3. Fight or flight: Like most animals, scallops flee when they’re threatened. They swim away from predators by flapping their shells.
Once again scallops rather than oysters. Again I'm uncomfortable with the idea that scallop flapping might be a crude mindless reaction from a stimuli that's not mentally interpretated as a threat.
4. Mussels have been shown to flex their muscles and move around to find a better location. Sound familiar?
(The "sounds familiar" has a link to a video of a dog moving to a more comfortable place)
I was curious so I searched footage of mussels moving and I mostly found freshwater mussel footage. But I couldn't debunk the idea that seawater mussels move to some degree, as I found this video ( which doesn't mention the kind of species, but considering it mentions the mussel must aggregate with other mussels to survive and by searching "mussel Lévy walk" (the kind of movement shown in this video) I found this article ( ... Complexity) and there's a photo of aggregated mussels that look like seawater mussels with the distinct black shell and kind of aggregation. In either case the movement seems quite simple though.
5. We don’t know yet if bivalves can feel pain, but if they do, an order of oysters by the dozen means a lot of suffering on one plate. Wouldn’t it be worth bypassing bivalves?
I guess the question makes sense, I don't find much to comment on besides the fact it's the first question that doesn't fit the title of the article (appealing to consequences rather than ethology).
6. Dredging is a drag. Dredging oceans to harvest oysters damages the reefs that provide other animals with habitats and disrupts the ecosystem.
Again irrelevant to ethology. Anyway it's probably a bad idea to eat wild caught oysters, but this may not apply to rope-grown.
7. Clams can live to be 35 years old, but most are harvested at just 2 years of age.
If they're sentient it's a legitimate argument about lost opportunity to live. But that's only a good argument if they are.
8. Sea turtles can be injured or killed by the dredges and trawl nets that are used to harvest scallops.
Again, seems to apply to wild-caught, not rope-grown. And not relevant to ethology either.
9. Mussel farms are ocean litterbugs. They produce “marine litter” that includes broken shells, rope, floats, and other debris that are often ingested by marine animals.
Once again irrelevant to ethology. But it might be a good argument about local environmental harm; farming a lot of mussels might reasonably have an impact on marine wildlive being harmed by an unnaturally high amount of shell debris. This however has to be evaluated when it comes to how far the negative environmental impact goes from the farm (is it very local? or affects a much wider area?) and be weighed against the impacts of other kinds of farming (like pesticides and fertlizers for land crops).
10. All we are saying is give seas a chance. As oysters, clams, and mussels suck in ocean water to feed on bacteria and phytoplankton, they also ingest pollutants and other harmful chemicals and send the clean, filtered water back into the sea. One oyster can filter 50 gallons of water a day.
Well the article is definitely misnamed, only the first half had anything to do with ethology. But the amount of microplastics and heavy metals filter feeders ingest may be a reason to limit their consumption regardless.

There's another article: ... 1747367305 don't be fooled by the URL, the actual article's name has a question mark and the article is negative. I don't have the time right now to analyze the content but it says that the way they feed might be controlled by a genuine decision-making mind. What do you think about it?
Appeal to nature: the strange belief that what is perceived as "natural" is necessarily safer, more effective or morally superior compared to what isn't.

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Post by fredericlavender » Sun Dec 09, 2018 5:32 am

If you are going to eat an oyster, you may as well eat meat.

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