Vegans Eating Oysters?! Fussy Oystertarians?

April 15 2010 - 10:04 AM

Christopher Cox at Slate wrote a piece last week about oysters and why he thinks it's OK for a vegan to eat them. In addition to the litany of benefits: they require little to no feed – actually being filter-feeders they clean their living water, they are hugely efficient with their farm-footprint and even thrive in cages! Not only that but since they have no nervous system they don't experience pain. Isn't pain what it means to be alive? Isn't that why vegans are vegans?

Moreover, since oysters don't have a central nervous system, they're
unlikely to experience pain in a way resembling ours—unlike a pig or a
herring or even a lobster.

They can't move, so they
don't respond to injury like those animals do, either. Even monkish
ethicist Peter Singer sanctioned oyster eating in Animal Liberation—the best-argued case for
a vegan diet I've read—before reversing his opinion for later editions
of the book. To justify the flip-flop, he wrote that "one cannot with
any confidence say that these creatures do feel pain, so one can equally
have little confidence in saying that they do not feel pain." This is
unconvincing: We also can't state with complete confidence that plants
do, or do not, feel pain—yet so far Singer hasn't made a stand against
alfalfa abuse.

I would think an potential answer to this is that pain is painful but it's only an aspect of life. You can get into larger discussions about eating animals beyond "does it hurt to be eaten?". We make huge presumptions on what goes on in the minds of our pets, let alone the bivalves living on the undersides of rowboats in the Chesapeake… right?

While oysters have no nervous system or brain for that matter they do have
a nerve ganglia but not sure what that really means from either a
theological or biological standpoint. I mean I know insensitive humans that have lived their whole lives in Chicago…