Are oysters vegan?

There’s been a lot of conversation lately around whether or not oysters are vegan. I personally have never had the opportunity to question why I don’t eat oysters–they’re a type of sea creature that is definitely more like an animal than a plant, therefore I don’t eat them. Recently, however, it’s come to my attention that other vegans do eat oysters, and I’m going to try and figure out why the fuck this is so.

Christopher Cox’s article about vegans eating oysters came out in 2010. I still hear people arguing about the issue, so I’m putting in my two cents.

Oysters don’t have nervous systems, therefore they don’t feel pain.
Oysters have nervous systems. Neurons exist in the larval stage of development. Even when they mature, oysters react to stimuli–you touch them, they shut. If you’ve ever seen someone splash lemon juice on an oyster, you’ve seen an oyster twitch.

True, oysters don’t have brains. They do have three “brain-like ganglia” and are aware of their surroundings through sense organs. They also have opioid receptors. This means that if the creature feels pain, it has a mechanism of defense against it. If it didn’t feel pain at all, it would not have opioids and opioid receptors. Looking past this fact would be a mistake.

Oysters and mussels are Bivalves, and are closely related to Cephalopods such as squid and cuttlefish. Just because they are immobile doesn’t mean that they necessarily do not feel pain. Sure, they might not be able to feel the same type of pain that we feel upon cutting a finger or a burn on a hot oven, but who are we to decide what is pain and what isn’t? The “oysters don’t feel pain” argument just doesn’t do it for me.

Being vegan isn’t about just sliding by the requirements.
If you’re going to be nitpicky about what you can or cannot eat as a vegan, perhaps you should reconsider your priorities. Why are you a vegan? What made you decide that participating in animal suffering was wrong? Quoting Super Vegan, “Deciding to be vegan means you prioritize the avoidance of animal products over other concerns”.

Why listen to a bunch of meat eaters telling vegans what to eat?
Please, tell me more about what my diet should look like. It’s like asking a staunch Republican about Democratic values.

The slippery slope argument is strong here.
Well, if I eat oysters–I mean, mussels can’t really feel pain, scallops aren’t very developed. Hey you know what? Meat’s not so bad! No thanks. As Camille DeMere of Citizen Radio says, “It’s a creature. I don’t eat creatures”. Damn right.

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