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Are Oysters Vegan? | Gary Yourofsky & The Vegan Black Metal Chef

Ever heard of an ostrovegan?  And no, it's not a vegan ostrich–it's a vegan who consumes bivalves like musses and oysters.  There is much debate as to whether this an ethical practice and if its practitioners can still be considered vegan.  Proponents of bivalve consumption cite the lack of sentience and a central nervous system.  Detractors prefer the cautious approach of giving bivalves the benefit of the doubt; better to assume sentience and be wrong.  While interviewing vegan activist Gary Yourofsky, I posed the question of bivalves and got a response not only from Gary but also from the Vegan Black Metal Chef.

For Gary's full response plus the hardcore 2 cents of the Vegan Black Metal Chef, check out the video above, but here are some choice nuggets:

“Clams and mussels and oysters are not plants and are not listed in any science book as plants.  The fact they contain animal protein should let you know that they are off limits. Let’s keep in mind, understand pain and suffering is the most important thing to eliminate.  But being vegan means that you don’t consume animal products. If it has animal protein it is an animal product.  So, forget about the clams, forget about the scallops, stick to the fruits and vegetables.”

At which point, the Black Metal Chef, who was shooting this video and happens to have a neuroscience degree interjected that clams, mussels and oysters have nerve ganglia, which are like “mini brains”, similar to the nerves of our own nervous system. “So that's just f-ing weird and bullsh*t,” he concluded.

Now, I'd love to hear what you think about this topic.  Where do bivalves fit within your definition of veganism?  Let me know in the comments! And stay tuned for more installations of Gary's interview series.  I'll be posting behind-the-scenes footage and questions that don't make it on the main channel to the ViV Area here.  Get the password free when you sign up for the Nugget Newsletter!  Just use the form at the bottom of this post :)

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  1. Hans J. on November 24, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    Well – bivalves are relatively easy to tackle from a vegan point of view, since a. they’re animal protein and b. there’s no other benefit in consuming them. However, avoiding animal protein is not practiced as an end in itself – vegans are not using animals to do the least possible harm to other sentient beings and the environment.

    Enter stage left: Insects.

    To provide a little background: As far as we know, insects lack the capacity to feel pain, even though they have a nervous system, since they do not have nociceptors. And while they would provide animal protein, they are efficient as hell in doing so – one could get 60 times more protein per hectare from insect protein than even with the most advanced GM soy bean. Which is why the industry is on the brink of introducing insects as animal food large-scale. And when it’s suitable as animal-food, it is surely also suitable for human consumption.

    Anyway – using insect protein, you could do with one sixtieth of the land needed for soy, so that you could reassign the land for re-forestation, enhancing biodiversity and reducing green house gasses. And we are talking about reducing 845.000 km² of agricultural land (currently used for GMO soy alone) to just 14.083 km², setting 830.917 square kilometers free (equalling 326.256 square miles), where no collateral damage during harvest etc. would occur when re-forested.

    So – while putting bivalves on the menu has no beneficial side effect, putting insect protein on the menu may be near-mandatory when pursuing the “least harm” goal. At least, it would really p*ss me off if anyone munching meat would finally have a point in claiming that he actually did less harm (and vastly less harm!) to animals than I do on a meat-free diet.

    Any thoughts, please?

    • Jennifer on November 24, 2014 at 1:47 pm

      I was thinking the same thing. I wouldn’t eat clams and mussels as a vegan. But I am fascinated by idea of large scale insect production since it is much better for the environment. They are also high in protein and low in calorie. But I don’t think the population at large is ready to start eating bugs, and I don’t think I would support the industry. I would stay vegan.

      I also call BS on the bi-valve argument since no one is saying we should eat jellyfish. That is something that would probably be a good idea. With all the damage being done to the ocean, jellyfish seem to be dominating the ocean, and is causing problems. Now that would get into the territory of do we fix the problem was started, or say that fixing the problem is causing too much death. And I’ve eaten jellyfish oh so many years ago- they aren’t the tastiest. And again, I am not sure if I would make a vegan exception to eat jellyfish anyways.

      • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on November 24, 2014 at 2:26 pm

        interesting points Jennifer! we did do a video on insects with gary as well, if you haven’t seen that. funy enough, jonathan safron froer makes the arguemtn (tongue-in-cheek) for eating dogs in his book “eating animals.” it’s an interesting read ;)

        • Jennifer on November 24, 2014 at 5:03 pm

          Thanks for the book suggestion! I have it on my Christmas Wishlist, but I’ll probably just buy it anyways.

    • pj on November 26, 2014 at 8:09 pm

      I agree with staying clear of those that live in the shell. When watching people “shuck” an oyster it is clear to me that their life is being cut off at that very moment. It doesn’t take rocket science to realize there is a killing taking place. I have little tolerance for those that argue lobsters don’t feel pain so when they are boiled alive they are unaware. I say bull***t.

  2. Lee Loo on November 24, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    i heard once a queen conch shell screeming when she was out of the water and ready to be killed, well just cut up alive for salad.
    so that tells me they still feel something
    be vegan, stay vegan, become vegan

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on November 24, 2014 at 5:55 pm

      wow thank you for sharing Lee Loo!

      • Cathy on October 12, 2019 at 6:52 pm

        But the queen conch is not a bivalve. It is a mollusk, and this is not about mollusks. This is about bivalves (oysters and mussels).

  3. john calabria on November 24, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    I have witnessed sentience in insects and snails… I’ve had relationships with spiders, who come to the same place in my office , night after night for weeks, to drink water spritzed from my fingertips. I have a friend who had a relationship with two individual crickets who lived near her pets water bowl, she would give cricket water, and cricket liked to eat dry cat food. I’ve also had multigenerational relationships with earwigs, who mother their young and learned to tolerate my presence, this went on for at least ten years in my old house. It was hard to leave them when I moved. I hear you on the pluses of insects, but… they are not Vegan. they run from us, and writhe in pain when injured. peace, to all begins, -john

  4. EconomicDemocracy on November 25, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Funny I was recently thinking, again, about how strange it is that by accident “Vegetarian” is thought of as the “most natural” mid-way between omni and vegan…but if you had to add something to vegan, and wanted to be least cruel, you’d not choose “Add dairy and eggs”…so isn’t it unfortune that “vegan+dairy+eggs” is thought of as part-way to vegan? As opposed to vegan+something else?

    I think there are many reason not to eat even sponges, as I’ll argue in a minute, but they don’t even have any nervous system (not just “not a Central nervous system”) so for those who want to “stir the pot” and try to add to veganism, why don’t they choose sponges? wikipedia: “are multicellular organisms that have bodies full of pores and channels allowing water to circulate through them, consisting of jelly-like mesohyl sandwiched between two thin layers of cells. Sponges have unspecialized cells that can transform into other types and that often migrate between the main cell layers and the mesohyl in the process. Sponges do not have nervous, digestive or circulatory systems. Instead, most rely on maintaining a constant water flow through their bodies to obtain food and oxygen and to remove wastes.”

    So Sponges (the animal) have zeor neurons as opposed to 800 neurons in a typical jellyfish ( while oysters would be far more complex than jellyfish, in turn..

    Next, I ask myself, how often have we found “oh, it’s more complex than we thought” or “it can feel pain when we didn’t think so, or more pain” or “has more sentience” versus how often have we found “it’s far more simple than we thought, can’t feel pain even though we were sure it could”. From the science I’ve read, it’s overwhelmingly the former, not the latter. So why risk it?

    That’s ethics. As far as health, Gary pointed out it’s animal protein, and what does the China Study among others tell us about eating animal protein?

    On top of that I did a simple google for “osters” next to “heavy metals” (putting that two word phrase in quotes). One word: LOTS (as in lots of studies)

    Eating insects: Are you planning to eat the entire thing, including digestive system, whatever poop is inside it, etc?

    And I’m not at all convinced of this claim: “And when it’s suitable as animal-food, it is surely also suitable for human consumption” by Hans since industry has shown over and over again that what it considers “suitable for animal consumption” is not suitable at all (like they were feeding meat to cows, and even forced cannibalism in some “farmed animals” practices)

    One can feed 10 billion people if everyone was vegan, so I dont’ see a “need” in that direction either, putting aside “gross”, putting aside heavy metals and other contaminants, putting aside animal protein etc. We should help encourage as many people in the Developing world to go vegan…and why should they listen when they see “the rich world is eating meat!” so our example as vegans in developed countries is an important one.

    What about going not to oysters, not to sponges but to one celled animals? Here I have no interest in eating that either, but I can’t give an ethical reason, except an indirect one, that is far stronger for oysters and even insects. Why desensitize yourself? When you start eating things with eyes and heads (even if you remove those) like eating insects, you’re desensitizing yourself…if there was a huge nutrition reason, you might “weight the two sides” but there are no two sides, there is no nutritional need. Same with eating animal muscles (oysters) why open the door to desensitizing yourself?

    I love Dr. Greger’s line that we mostly do not practice “species cannibalism” but when we eat cows we’re practicing Class-cannibalism (the Class of Mammalia) I would add that we also practice “super-class cannibalism” when we eat birds (class “aves” or birds, are part of the super-class Tetrapoda).

    Most Americans are rightly horrified at Order-cannibalism (some parts of the world where people eat monkeys or even eat apes (which is not only Order-cannibalism but even Family-cannibalism (Hominidae) and actually sub-family-cannibalism (Homininae) when people eat apes, just not genus-cannibalism…though the Developed world should spend like maybe a few percent we spend on bombs, instead helping the poorest countries develop so such peole don’t out of desperation for food or money, end up going after “bush meat”..!)) :'(

    Why eat food that reduces empathy, and “de-sensitizes” you to eating animal muscle anyway, on top of health issues (animal protein, and heavy mentals or other contaminants) issues, are the main problems that come to my mind…And focus on reducing and eliminating the massive consumption of cows, dairy, pigs, and chickens, for starters…

    • Jennifer on November 25, 2014 at 1:37 pm

      You made some good points comparing neurons to other animals, but I think it is worth noting that almost all living things have some form of “feeling” including plants. We aren’t sure about specifics but scientists are discovering that instead of using a nervous system plants use electrical signals. The signals move slower than ours but they are still there. (here is a video about it: Almost every living thing needs some sort of stimulus to say “Hey, that fire is bad! Move!”

      But let’s take the Naked Mole-Rat, a species that is insensitive to pain. It doesn’t respond to acid or capsaicin. Certain pain centers are actually lacking a neurotransmitter. But no one is even suggesting that they chop up these guys. They would be a great “factory farm crop” since horrible living conditions wouldn’t effect the animals. But no one is saying we eat them since they are
      1) small
      2) gross looking to majority of the population
      3) but still close looking to cute animals like bunnies

      Pretty much people are only making the argument to eat bivalves because they are very foreign looking. Most people haven’t seen clams move around. And I think it is worth noting that regardless of ethics or health issues, I am sure there aren’t enough bivalves to supply to the world population.

      EconomicDemocracy I saw that you mentioned not eating single celled organisms, and I was curious what you thought of the idea of Kombucha? Although there is fungi in it, there are other bacterias, and they are “farmed” to make a certain food produce, some people even eating the culture itself.

      • EconomicDemocracy on November 26, 2014 at 1:34 am

        Hi Jennifer.
        You bring up some interesting thoughts. Just to clarify

        1. I should have clarified that, the wikipedia page I linked to is flawed, since they list number of neurons instead of neurons per some unit of body mass…even that ratio is imperfect, but just looking at number of neurons without looking at body mass is really badly oversimplifying (to be sure, number of neurons per bodymass “favors” smaller animals…but not as extremely as “number of neurons” alone favors cats for example making them look way way smarter than mice, largely due to far, far more weight; 4,500 grams for a cat versus 20 to 30 grams for a not a fair comparison to just count number of neurons…) So why did I link there?

        I linked to it mostly because of one number, the number zero, on that page, as sponges are said to have *zero* neurons, onone, on that page..just wanted to give a reference for that fact I was citing..

        2. I was not saying I “refuse” to eat 1-celled animals, instead, I kind of said the opposite, but not quite..

        1a. I said I did *not* see any ethical problems with eating 1-celled animals, other than

        1b the indirect ethical reason I stated, of “why open the door” to eating animals if there are no strong clear health reasons to do it

        1c I said I was not inclined to do so (“I have no interest”) meaning I’m not promoting it, and it’s not something that appeals to me

        3. Not sure if Naked Mole Rat is ipervious to all pain or just most…but an interesting example I don’t know much about (did a peek at wikipedia) however then we’re back to, “what right do we have to kill it?” even if it suffers no pain. If a human being had a rare condition that magically gave them no pain sensation at all, who would say it makes it ok to kill them? No one, of course…Most non-vegan, non “Animal rights” people would probably say the same about chimpanzees (or pet dogs..) if they had a “no pain” condition, it’s not ok to kill them” We’re back to the spectrum…1 celled organisms up to creatures whose life has value..up to and including humans, which in some sense are the other end of the spectrum..

        I say “up to humans” not out of having proof or certitude humans are “best” on this planet, but it’s at the other end of the spectrum of what human being agree is not ok to kill…99.99% or something, hopefully more, of people agree (at least in their words, if not their actions) that killing humans is not ok morally (not counting “had no choice” scenarios), and close to 0% would say it’s morally wrong.

        But public opinon does not equal “what’s right/wrong” since the public can be wrong, right? True enough…Science does not tell us “killing is wrong” in the case of people, so we can’t expect it to tell us it’s wrong to kill animals, only to tell us they can suffer, or not, they can feel pain phsyically, or not, they have some sentience, or not, and how complex they are, or not, etc…

        But of course, we have to make ethicadl choices not in some University Philosophy 101 class but in the real world…where we have to eat…and where it’s easy to “err on the side of compassion” when a plant-based diet is so healthy..

        4. Don’t know about Kombucha. Maybe some day we’ll discover there is no ethical difference between fungi and 1-celled animals…I think our understanding is a long, long way short of being “sure” of any such thing, mind you…. If we ever find that, it would mean the same thing as 1b, one might argue.

        At the end of the day there is a harm spectrum as well a s an ignorance spectrum. Our current science has an ignorance spectrum meaning things we’re pretty sure of, things we don’t know about at all, and many shades of gray in between…all other things being equal, one should err on the side of caution, precaution, and ethics, I think most of us would agree.

        On the harm spectrum, you sound like you’re pro-vegan so I’m not thinking of you in particular Jennifer, but many non-vegans have thought it’s a “contradiction” when vegans make distinctions…

        But it’s not a contradiction, but a way to make sense of the harm spectrum (which is going to exist even if we had “perfect knowledge” but exists sitting on top of that same scientific ignorance spectrum instead… :-) for the same reason that omivores are not “in contradiction” when they make a distinction between not just human and dog lives but also they do not consider one dog’s life to be ethically identical to the life of a bactrium organism either, and neither do 99.9% of vegans…almost all of us in our ethical constructs or just in our down to earth day to day functioning, see a spectrum rather than all in the same category….

        However, that spectrum does not negate the “exercise caution, err on the side of compassion”…

        I like how you phrased this:

        “Almost every living thing needs some sort of stimulus to say ‘ Hey, that fire is bad! Move! ‘”

        because that is far more accurate than some who conflate “signals for needing repair” as if they were automatically identical to “the plan is suffering!” and the two are far from the same, in fact we know plans RELY on animals eating some of them (eating fruit and pooping the seeds somewhere else) so on those grounds alone..on top of plants not having central nervous systems

        While oyxters “lack a Central Nervous System (CNS) but do have nerve ganglia” of nerve cells (neurons), plants on the other hand don’t even have neurons at all…

        The fact that some vegans have made the argument “well, plant don’t have a CNS” to give one (among many) reasons for not considering plants to be able to suffer is *not* the same as saying “anything that doesn’t have a CNS is ok to kill and eat” (as some confused youtube commenters take it) It was just one reason. Now we can give a stronger more fine-tuned reason thanks the Vegan Black Metal Chef and just adding in the plants to get:

        “Plants not only don’t have a CNS, but also plants don’t have even nerve ganglia (which, like humans) clams and oysters *do* have” and thirdly plants don’t even have neurons let alone these “ganglia” clusters of neurons.

        At the end of the day if some set of evil Gods decided to remove all the plants in the world today with a new type of plant that did have neurons, but no nerve ganglia, or with nere ganglia but no CNS, the spectrum and ethical principles would still be the same thought:

        “do the least harrm based on what you do know…and with things you don’t know or are not very sure about, err on the side of ethical caution”

        I suspect if some post-apocalyptic movie had omnivores being forced to choose between eating, say, clams and eating dogs, they would choose the clams….So omnis ALSO do…they TOO make distinctions…so vegans/AR activists are not very different…

        with the important exception that their eyes have been opened to a little bit more science, and medical health reserach, and their hearts opened to a bit more ethical pondering (even if it was uncomfortable for us to face these painful facts since almost all of use used to eat meat..!) which leads them to choose vegetables and fruit and nuts and seeds and grains and beans and legumes, over oysters

        • Jennifer on November 26, 2014 at 5:27 pm

          I have the same feeling about the wikipedia page with neurons. Bigger animals will clearly have more neurons. But is still an interesting page in terms of invertebrates. It is a pretty incomplete page in the sense it skips many animals as well.

          Without a doubt there are some forms of pain that a Naked Mole Rat can feel. They don’t feel pain from acids, which is probably because of their natural living conditions (high amounts of acid from their urine and poop, but they lack proper ventilation)

          Thanks for clearing up about single celled organisms. I get what you are saying now. And I don’t think it is silly to think maybe they could or experience some sort of pain we are unaware of because everything evolved from single celled organisms. We, as humans, like to think that if things didn’t evolve into us, they are inferrer. But that isn’t true, they just evolved NEXT to us. So there are some single celled organisms that start to resemble multicellular organisms. I mean take slime mold, as it slowly moves in groups. Or the valonia ventricosa, which is just simply put the largest single celled organism.

          I only bring up plants not because I think we shouldn’t eat them, but I feel like people dismiss plants just like they dismiss animals. Plants move, they grow, just at a much slower pace. And even still some plants move fast, like venus fly traps, and vines. They are amazing things, and some deserve respect. I think the biggest difference between plants and animals is that plants die pretty fast (most leaf produce, lettuce and kale, die after one season), and sometimes we don’t even hurt plants to get the food (fruit, nuts, etc).

          Thanks for having sure cool input, and not taking my ideas as “attacks.”

      • me the tv guy on October 6, 2019 at 10:47 pm

        Photosensitive organs in the plant respond to light, causing a variety of potential responses. Phototropism, seen in sunflowers and other plants, causes the growing parts of the plant to orient toward the sun. Heliotropism is defined by rapid and reversible movement in the plant. The mechanisms that allow the flower to track the sun are located in the upper portion of the stem. According to Candace Galen, professor of biological sciences at the University of Missouri-Columbia, the heliotropic action is similar to that of a seedling seeking sunlight. ProFlowers’ Year of Seeds allows you to start seeds at home and watch this effect for yourself.

  5. EconomicDemocracy on November 25, 2014 at 7:46 am

    Oh, also thanks….I meant besides thanks to anyone who made it through my long comment of all the thoughts that came to mind :-) but THANKS to Emily not only for great nuggest but for providing a forum for POSTS that does leaves space for folks like me and others who for technical reasons, or privacy reasons, or not wanting our souls to be owned by Google or Facebook or other reasons, who avoid those mass social network platforms…yay for website stand alone disucssion boards!

  6. Hans J. on November 26, 2014 at 1:13 pm

    So, plants don’t have neurons or ganglia – they don’t need any, as they don’t move. Oysters do, since they need to close their shell. So do insects, and since their bodies have to coordinate six legs (among other things), they even have a CNS. Sponges don’t move and don’t have to coordinate legs, and water ist just flowing through them,so they have no need for neurons.

    But as you correctly point out, EconomicDemocracy, the ablity to suffer alone can’t be the point to discriminate whether it’s “ok” to put something (someone…?) on the menu or not, since it wouldn’t be okay to kill someone just because he has lost (or even neverahd) the ability to suffer because of, say, a brain damage caused by an accident.

    Then again, most vegans would agree that even if plants were the most sentient beings on the planet, they would still eat them, because

    1. any life is based on the cost of other lives, even plants’ lives
    2. eating meat instead of plants would mean that even more plants would have to die

    So, even sentience is actually not the point.”Least harm” is, and making the best use of resources.
    So, while I agree that it is unnecessary to eat bivalves, the insect protein topic still remains:

    For insect production, no plant would have to die. Insects thrive on almost anything, including grass or fallen leaves. Again: Insects are highly efficient in making use of what they eat. Much more efficient than ourselves, actually. And, I repeat myself, it’s possible to use just 1/60th of the land needed for soy beans to provide the same amount of protein, with the fact of insect protein being the one with higher bioavailability to humans on top of that.

    So, provided insect protein is suitable for human consumption, which it is as we can observe in cuisines around the world, the question is:
    Is it okay to use 60 times more land than necessary, thereby reducing biodiversity, enhancing the green house effect, harming and killing animals during harvest, making them lose their habitat since we need their land as agricultural land, just for the sake of avoiding animal protein, when – to the best of our knowledge – the beings providing the protein are just as unable to suffer as plants are?

    Heck, ethical considerations aside just for a second, to illustrate what this means:
    Given that a pig needs to be fed six times more protein than its body yields, any given amount of pork raised on insect protein would still need just 10% of the land necessary for the same amount of Tofu.

    Meaning: While Vegans always had the argument of making the best use of ressources on their side, this will reverse in the near future. People not using insect protein are going to be the ones who will be accused for wasting resources. I’m pretty sure we’re gonna see the “entomo-vegan” emerge before long – someone who eats the salad with the bugs.

    • EconomicDemocracy on December 1, 2014 at 8:16 am

      Before I share a list of concerns and responses to the idea that entomo-vegan is the wave of the future, let me re-state a point that is in a way, in your favor.

      As I said earlier, it’s a strange thing, ethically at least, that the definition that comes to most people’s mind as “between omni and vegan” is “vegeterian” which is vegan plus dairy and eggs (and honey). If you had to ethically choose your X for “vegan plus X” you would *not* choose dairy! (or eggs..)

      Also on your point 1 I think there’s a different between killing other life versus “at the cost of” other life. That’s like Tribe A of humans killing someone from Tribe B, versus, Tribe A eating an amount of food, that is “at the cost of” Tribe B can no longer grow to be 10 times larger (when it could otherwise maybe have..) So plants grow “At a cost” of other animals but (except rare ones like the Venus Flytrap) do not kill. Like the Tribes example, there is a difference between “At the cost of” versus killing! But this is a minor point, let me get to the larger ones, as I see them.

      i) I see no reference for your number “60”

      ii) I can think of logical reason to be skeptical of the number 60 even before you cite any study! Why? Because there can’t be one single number of the ratio of “protein per acre” from insects, versus “protein per acre” from “the most advanced GMO soybeans” given that different types of insect, will have different numbers, different types of soybeans will have different numbers, and other non-GMO non-soybean plants might have better numbers than soy (maybe they growth vertically more easily and you can stack them, too).

      If one half of what we’re comparing has many different numbers, and the other half has many different numbers, the “ratio” will definitely have many numbers, not one single number (60) for the ratio..

      iii) “Heck, ethical considerations aside just for a second, to illustrate what this means:
      Given that a pig needs to be fed six times more protein than its body yields, any given amount of pork raised on insect protein would still need just 10% of the land necessary for the same amount of Tofu.”

      This does not sound right. Try to visualize the HUGE number of acres you need to get enough insects to feed (each day, every day, week after week, month after month) the pig all the calories the pig needs. On that much land, or a fraction thereof, I can grow my own food to feed myself, season after season, forever…How many insects per day would a pig eat? Even if you got the pig to “enjoy” it…the number of insects needed to make one single pound (one only) would be very large…how many acres? I think this figure is highly suspect based on just these general considerations alone…

      To the more important two points:


      More importantly, protein isn’t a big issue. As I suspect you know, there are many myths about how much protein a human being needs…we need very little…depending on one’s ideal body weight (a number which many scientific studies use inside their formula for how much protein you need) we might need 40, 35 or even fewer grams per day.

      Since it’s very easy to meet, we have no protein “problem” Emily of BSV has a video where she cites another way to look at it: the protein per calorie of most plant food is so high that just getting enough calories, means you’ll get enough protein.

      There is enough to feed 10 billion people all the protein they need, from plant material, that’s easy to see since we have 7 billion now and many eat meat, which needs many more acres per gram of protein (to grow the plants that have the protein to feed the cows and pigs and chickens, to grow, to indirectly, and inefficiently, get the protein to people) and the 7 billion are fed in this very inefficient way (many of them, certainly the more affluent 1.5 or 2 billion) so yes there is enough to feed from plant alone, 10 or more billion (long enough past that in fact, that other environmental problems will come long before we have to worry about looking for new protein sources because we worry “we might not have enough from plants!”) that simply is not our problem.

      By the way one sweet potato has 2.1 grams of protein. Even this lower protein (compared to nuts, beans, lentils, etc) source, you’d only have to eat 15 to 20 such per day to have all the protein you need.

      How many mosquitos does one have to eat per day to get 2.1 grams of protein? How many mosquitos per day would one have to eat to cover 30 to 40 grams of protein? Some immense amount…and add the “energy cost” of catching, and “processing” the insects…

      But again: protein is not an issue so even if one could get more protein per acre and not spend too much energy etc (unlikely based on just the above) then there is still no reason to pass the “eat things with eyes” (opens the door to eating other animals..)or “convince people to do something they think is gross” since you don’t need to do that, to feed all the billions in the world, a diet with enough protein: plant based diets will do just fine.

      How many people will you be able to convince to EAT insects? Yuck, people will thik. The eyes and digestive organs of insects and the whoe thing, you want people to eat? “But we will make it tasty and will have a Great propaganda campaign to convince people!”

      But whatever “campaign” you have, if you used the same money to get people to go vegan…you could get far more people: very few have eaten insects before…Almost *everyone* has eaten vegan foods: people regularly eat rice, wheat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, lentils, etc..they are familiar with those foods, and almost everyone will *like* at least some of those. Add some good recipes, and they will find the food tasty, no problem. The problem is getting past myths (“not enough protein”) and additions (to convenient, high fat, high salt, fast food) and cultural conditioning (it’s “wimpy” to be a “tree hugger”) and other B.S. like that….but at least you don’t have the additional problem of “I’ve never eaten vegetables or grains”

      But people CAN say “I’ve never eaten insects”

      People do not have a “gross!” reacdtion to eating *some* grains, some vegetables, etc…they do have a “gross!” reaction (most people do) to eating insects..

      Bottom line if you had 100 million dollars to educate, say, 1 billion people….which method would help move as many of those 1 billion to a new diet as possible? Could 10% or eventually far more, go vegan? Yes. Could 10% replace all their meat with or even much of any, with insects? Can you imagine 30 million Americans eating insects as their “meat”? I don’t think so!

      Versus educating 30 million Ameircans in another direction, so they are doing what Bill Clinton and many many others have, adopting a vegan (or better, WFPB, Whole Foods Plant Based) diet? Yes, that can happen, that is already on its way to happening, slowly, too slowly, but it is happening: just look at percent vegetarian or vegan in surveys, among the young (under age 25 or 30) and it’s higher than for older Americans.

      Or look at the reference Wikipedia gives to document its claim that 5% of Israelis are vegan (citing Haaretz newspaper, sept 17, 2014…) reading over parts of the article’s translation, this include “partial” vegans, but that’s still huge…and even more impressive, is 21% adopting Meatless Monday. That’s before we spend one penny of our imaginary 100 million to convert anyone…Do you have 21% eating insects one day a week, on Monday? Not in Israel, and I doubt anywhere else today would you find it.

      So that’s the practical reason that if we want to help the environment, and to feed the world, then educating people to go vegan is the best bang for the proverbial (financial, or time-spent) buck. And that’s even if there are no ethical issues with eating insects…

      So I do not think “making the best use of resources” will lose out to “eat insects” any time “soon”…and that was also never the main argument. The main arguments were: it’s healthier, and it’s ethical.

  7. Chris Petty on November 28, 2014 at 4:44 am

    No. They are off limits. Especially when there are fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds and mushrooms!

  8. Jennifer on May 22, 2015 at 1:06 pm

    As a nutrition science major whose main reason for not being vegan for the past year was due to consuming clams to raise my iron levels, I must interject and say there are definitely beneficial side effects. A $3.50 container of clams from Whole Foods boasts 120% Daily Value of iron, and while it’s likely that not all of that is bioavailable/absorbable, that’s a lot of iron. Clams also house enough bacteria to be a good source of vitamin b12. Also check out vitamin D. Calcium too (although be careful here since too much calcium eaten with your iron source can actually inhibit iron absorption). And carnosine! Not that we need carnosine…

    And I’m saying all of this as a vegan. Frankly, not eating clams is contrary to logic unless there’s an ethical reason for me to not eat them. At the time being, I’m not eating them because I want to be able to consider myself vegan. But purity is a lame excuse… perhaps I could get more carnists on board with veganism if we allowed clam consumption. Then suddenly I’m no longer an extremist but a logical individual who understands health concerns and biology and the idea of balance.

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on May 22, 2015 at 2:08 pm

      thank you for your input on this, Jennifer. i’d suggest watching the video on iron and calcium for plant-based assurances of levels, which is not at all challenging. aside from the possible ethical quandaries, the sea is so heavily polluted that consuming anything from it is potentially troubling. there are so many other sources of nutrients! i appreciate your input, though- thank you so much for your level-headed presentation.

      • ELSA BEATRIZ HERRMANN on February 3, 2017 at 10:49 am

        Agree. I can’t understand why some people choose certain foods -such clams- as their source for specific nutrients when in the plant based diet there are countless options. That is a lame excuse…I also have a degree and believe me that doesn’t justify the fact that when it comes to nutrition there are a lot of data not yet discovered or researched.

    • Hans J. on May 22, 2015 at 3:50 pm


      bivalves do not just contain iron, zinc and copper, but can also contain icky stuff that you won’t want – heavy metals like lead, cadmium and nickel – often in concentrations exceeding food safety limits, depending a little on species, but mostly on the location they are from. Please compare this recent study from February 2015, to name but one:
      So, regardless of whether it’s ethical to consume bivalves or not, it’s quite debatable if they are a healthy source of nuirients, given that theirconsumption can be avoided with all these safer plant based alternatives around.

      What do you think?

      Cheers – Hans

      • Jennifer on May 22, 2015 at 5:12 pm

        Oh no, this echoes when my mom sent some heartbreaking article about something similar in my beloved chocolate :( I’m actually annoyed this site doesn’t mention clams as well…

        • Hans J. on May 22, 2015 at 5:33 pm

          Yes, your link does address the same issue, indeed. The difference seems to be (to me, at least) that what I referred to is a peer reviewed article in a scientific magazine (The Scientific World Journal”) and quotes 51 references. As such, it may possibly – apologies to you mom – bear a tad more significance than an ambitious “what we tested is..:”, don’t you think, Jennifer?
          Of course, I may be missing something, and you have a reference banning heavy metal contamination of bivalves deep into the realm of fantasy? If so, I’d love to read that…

    • Sid on September 12, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      I don’t mean to be mean, but I find it a bit hard to believe that you’re a nutrition science major because there are plant-based foods that’s rich in iron.

  9. EconDemocracy on May 23, 2015 at 3:02 am

    Hi Jennifer,
    I’d like to share some iron ideas. Before I do, let me say I agree with Dr. Greger’s cute line from a vid more than a decade ago about what his favorite answer is to the common, “I can’t go vegan because, I can give up the rest but I just can’t give up X” and his favorite answer is “then DON’T” meaning then don’t give up X, and you’ll still be 90% vegan or 95% or whatever and still doing a lot ofr your helath, for the environment, and ethically. Don’t let X stop you from becoming a “vegan in all areas except X” in other words (hmm, should we sell online virtual stickers that let someone proudly declare that?”

    Now that I’ve hopefully convinced you I don’t come from some “ordering others what to eat” type of Vegan police I don’t want to lie, I started veganism for health 20 years ago but I’m definitely into the ethics too and eventually giving up that “X” is something I personally think is a good idea..but relax, we’re not going to make you sign in blood (or in ink or or anything else) to “promise” to eventually drop X.

    As others mentioned, there are heavy metals among other considerations.

    What about my vegan iron ideas before I lose your attention though? One of the many side projects I’m working on is an organized info sheet on iron and calcium. Actually calcium is the harder one…completely doable, but iron is the easier of the two.

    Some perhaps surprising sources of iron:

    1) Blackstrap molasses. I put this into my weekly stew for a mildly sweet extra touch. Another idea? I thought I would hate it or at least mildly dislike it, but I tried a teaspoon to tablespoon into a cup of pure not boiling but very warm to somewhat hot water, stir…delicious.

    a) Wholesome Sweeteners brand:

    15% or your iron in tha tone single tablespoon. Cost? Well the bottle has 64 servings, and I don’t think it cost much more than 6.40 so between 10 cents and to be (very!) safe, double it to 20 cents. Probably 10 to 15 cents.

    Brands matter, which is one thing my online info page will include about, so always check labels.This brand has 15% iron and 10% of your calcium (though more like 15% of the 600mg we really need unlike the artificially high 1000mg, but that’s another story; see Emily’s interview with Dr. Greger on calcium)

    In contrast Brer Rabbit brand *blackstrap* molasses (not the other kinds) has less iron (4%) bu tmore calcium (20%) for the same 1Tbsp serving.

    But use the first brand to get a nice 15% of iron for just 60 calories!

    2) For just 100 calories and just 89 to 99 cents, try water chestnuts, each small little can officially has two really small servings (50 calories each), each has 10% of your iron, one can has 20% or your iron.

    We’ve just spent about 1.00 to 1.20 dollars and 160 calories and we have 15+20 = 35% of our iron needs, more than one third, and we don’t even have one TENTH (1/10) of our calorie needs (assuming you have at least 1,600 calories per day) yet

    Emily and Dr. Greger mentioned great sources, like beans and greens.

    3) Just to give on example I can read from a can, one can or Westbrae natural organic whole soy beans has 3.5 servings each with 25% or your iron so one can is 87.5% or your iron.

    I can eat a whole can straight, but in case you prefer less (and 3.5 servings a da ar eok but I usually have less and Greger says to NOT go over 3-5 per day of soy foods to be on the safe side, it’ super healthy under that level, much above there are however, risks to soy over-consumption)

    So let’s take a half can of those whole soybeans: 43.75% of one’s daily iron.

    Subtotal so far: 35+43.75 = 78.75% of iron

    We’re at or just under your 3.50 and this is for the expensive Organic stuff mostly! Plus not the heavy metal profile from eating animal flesh from the oceans :-)

    (Kidney, black, great northern and othe rbeans are options too..amounts vary but are significant)

    4) There’s also other great sources Emily mentioned like figs, tons of grain options, raising etc, but here’s another one:

    One can of organic pumpkin by Farmet’s Market brand (Farmers Market Foods Inc, Corvallis, OR) has 35% or one’s iron in one can. Brands matter; I see tht Libby’s Organic Pumpkin has only 3.5 * 6% or 21% (not 35%) or your daily iron.

    That 1 can again has 3.5 servings technically but a half can is an easy serving or into a savory meal and the other half, mixed with some allspice or other quick additions into a super healthy dessert (or into another quick recipes thta’s savory) for one can.

    Subtotal: 78.75% plus 35% 113.75% or our iron, and the first brand’s can of pumpkin has only 3.5*42 = 147 calories.

    We’re well above 110% and “gosh I’m still hungry” in terms of our total calories from these foods! Even if you don’t like all of these I hope at least a few of them are ideas you might want to explore…or other readers…and experiment with recipes with them :-)

    Also to keep track Cronometer is awesome, but please consider using the link that gives BSV credit:

    they have foods pre-entered but if ou want to be more accurate, type in (as you can see above, it varies by brand and product) and you can rest easy after playing around for a week or two and checking, then your brain automatically knows, or can get good estimates for, when the mix of ingredients for any given week or half-week period, meets the iron needs…and you only have to check either cronometer or reading labels and jotting on paper or with calculator :-)

    Bonus points for creating a recipe with 3 or more of the four ingredients: pumpkin can, tablespoon organic Blackstrap molasses, whole soybeans (easy to make recipes with these three..I have) and maybe also :-? water chestnuts, too? ;)

    • Jennifer on May 23, 2015 at 4:44 am

      Thanks for your awesome response! I actually do a lot of what you’re saying – I love blackstrap molasses and use that (and sesame seeds) as sources of calcium. I eat beans out of the can too but prefer my edamame frozen – it’s cheaper and weighs less. Thanks for the tips, and I’ll definitely keep that in mind!

      • EconDemocracy on May 23, 2015 at 5:38 am

        Glad you liked :) and yeah, sesame seeds rock and are on my draft List too. In general, we’re messing up the environment, want another nightmare to worry about? Just came across this another reason to go Vegan to eat lower on the food chain, not ‘just’ heavy metals but sh*t like microbeads:

        “Microbeads are an important example of this wider problem of us designing products for one-time use that we’re stuck with for our lifetimes, our children’s lifetimes, our grand children’s lifetimes. But it will kill us.”

        “The environmental hazards posed by these microbeads are well documented, as they make their way through the drains of our showers and sinks and are deposited in waterways from New York to the Arctic.

        “Instead of breaking down readily in the environment, the little bits of plastic become vehicles of toxins that are consumed by wildlife, putting various species at risk as well as the humans who eat them.

        “Conservationists note that aquatic species mistake the beads for sediment, zooplankton, and other small organisms, and eat them as food. As the plastic freely enters the environment, it is increasingly likely that people will consume toxic fish. Research from 2012-2013 found that microbeads were having a major impact on the Great Lakes region, which holds 20 percent of the world’s surface fresh water.

        “Companies have even managed to stuff them into toothpaste, where they appear to serve little function beyond adding color, alarming dentists who warn that they can get lodged into gums and trigger bacterial infections.”

        II’m not saying it’s enough to go vegan, we need to stop harming the environment, but it’s good to know with all the crap we put out there, every day it seems another risky thing is bio-accumulating in the food chain …so it’s good to eat lower on the food chain, another reason to go vegan, or at vegan as each of us can personally manage trying our best :-)

        Source: Vice news, “Microbeads Kill Animals and Destroy the Environment — So California May Ban Them” May 22, 2015

  10. EconDemocracy on May 23, 2015 at 5:42 am

    P.S. the Westbrae Natural canned are not edamame, but are the yellow kind of whole soybeans…they rock too, though I also do like (and use the frozen kind) of edamame, variety is good :)

  11. Maddy on September 6, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    I find Gary’s response frustrating. I’m certainly an ethical vegan myself but I’m also a critical thinker. My reasons for being vegan are not to follow a dictionary definition. It’s to avoid causing pain and suffering in the world. Personally I’m actually allergic to bivalves so absolutely no chance of me ever needing to consider this ethical debate for myself. But I live with an almost-vegan partner who is also a scientist and has no real desire to adhere to the strict vegan label and its limitations (he will eat meat going to waste, buy second hand wool). After doing some research he tells me that he’s quite sure that as bivalves don’t have a CNS they do not feel pain. If there is more information on these nerve ganglia I’d like to know so I can pass it on to him but honestly I think that critical, scientific-based thinking will get our movement further than a militant stance like Gary’s based on an unwavering dictionary definition.

    • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on September 6, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      I hope to eventually do a deeper scientific piece on the matter but haven’t yet had the time. I would like to really look into the evidence in detail and create a grounded, fact=based response. Hopefully that will happen relatively soon, but I cannot say for sure. Many thanks for your thoughts.

    • Jennifer on September 7, 2015 at 1:15 am

      I feel you on this issue! I am all about learning as much as possible about an issue before coming to a conclusion. I get pretty annoyed when people joke about “Oh I’m not hurting plants! Don’t be silly!” when plants do have electrical impulses that could in theory be some sort of pain receptors. (they even slow down reaction times with ether just like animals!) But I am not implying we should stop eating plants because of many many reasons. (one obvious ones is that they create fruit with the intention of being eaten)

      I’ve heard a lot of debates about bivalves. One that farming them is actually good for the environments and water because they naturally filter the water. But I think a lot of the overall thing for me are distinct boundaries. It is confusing for other people, and it isn’t like it is hard NOT to eat bivalves. They are usually clearly labeled and there isn’t a huge market for their byproducts. I am not getting rid of my old pearl jewelry anytime soon, and besides half of the pearls people by (and the ones I own) are fake anyways. It is pretty easy to assume bivalves don’t have emotions, and feelings since we don’t see them move like other animals- but the do move around. And we need to remember that sometimes when animals don’t follow the same evolutionary path as us, it doesn’t mean that stop evolving.

      Though I would love it if Emily would do a video about the nervous system of bivalves and pros and cons of “farming” them. What I love about Bite Size Vegan is that it shows the truth, and Emily is willing to admit to the less favorable facts.

      • Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) on September 7, 2015 at 2:41 pm

        So glad to hear my work comes across that way :) I do strive to find the facts, regardless of how I may feel about them. I do hope to do such a video as soon as possible :)

    • Econdemocracy on September 7, 2015 at 7:28 am

      Hi Maddy,
      I find Gary frustrating in other ways (re non-violence, and Gary badly mis-representing what Gandhi actually said etc) but here, maybe I’m too soft on him, but I think he’s just trying to encapsulate a short vegan philosophy.

      I DO AGREE with you about science. Which suggests other reasons(health) to avoid higher on the food chain. Not sure if you saw my 5/23/15 reply, below is the relevant part of that.

      I don’t have hard data how much in bivalves, I’m just saying: EVERY other day we find a NEW toxin, or heavy metal, or now microbeads, that many of them bio-accumulate…so those science findings taken together as general trend, do suggest: eat plants, lower on the food chain!

      Anyway, from May 2015:

      Just came across this another reason to go Vegan to eat lower on the food chain, not ‘just’ heavy metals but sh*t like microbeads:

      “Microbeads are an important example of this wider problem of us designing products for one-time use that we’re stuck with for our lifetimes, our children’s lifetimes, our grand children’s lifetimes. But it will kill us.”

      “The environmental hazards posed by these microbeads are well documented, as they make their way through the drains of our showers and sinks and are deposited in waterways from New York to the Arctic.

      “Instead of breaking down readily in the environment, the little bits of plastic become vehicles of toxins that are consumed by wildlife, putting various species at risk as well as the humans who eat them.

      “Conservationists note that aquatic species mistake the beads for sediment, zooplankton, and other small organisms, and eat them as food. As the plastic freely enters the environment, it is increasingly likely that people will consume toxic fish. Research from 2012-2013 found that microbeads were having a major impact on the Great Lakes region, which holds 20 percent of the world’s surface fresh water.

      “Companies have even managed to stuff them into toothpaste, where they appear to serve little function beyond adding color, alarming dentists who warn that they can get lodged into gums and trigger bacterial infections.”

      II’m not saying it’s enough to go vegan, we need to stop harming the environment, but it’s good to know with all the crap we put out there, every day it seems another risky thing is bio-accumulating in the food chain …so it’s good to eat lower on the food chain, another reason to go vegan, or at vegan as each of us can personally manage trying our best :-)

      Source: Vice news, “Microbeads Kill Animals and Destroy the Environment — So California May Ban Them” May 22, 2015

      • mousey on September 17, 2015 at 8:00 pm

        Hey Econdemocracy. Enjoyed reading your posts, just wanted to add that bivalves are at the bottom of the foodchain – they’re filter feeders like sponges, and produce biodeposits that support other classes of organism. I don’t think they would be affected by microbeads, but might be wrong. They clean the water too, it’s actually really cool – they take nitrogen and phosphorous from pollutants including fertilisers out of the water, so 1ha of farmed mussels can negate the damage done by something like 40 coastal homes. When you harvest them, you take the nitrogen and phosphate out of the system entirely, like how trees lock away CO2. I don’t eat them, but just from a “purity” perspective, erring on the side of caution, and not because I think it’s inherently wrong. I do like the “it’s bullshit” argument though!

        • EconomicDemocracyORG on October 1, 2015 at 6:05 am

          Hi mousey,
          I’m glad to hear you appreciated my posts (or that anyone has read them at all, ha!) I do admit and tried to indicate, that I don’t have specifics on bioaccumulatoin and bivalves. Since making that earlier post, I have found more and more articles on microbeads and other things accumulating. On the one hand, I like your princpile of “erring on the side of caution”…I can’t recall the phrasing but in an earlier post I said..[found it] that given there is no health or nutrition need, “why open the door to desensitizing yourself?” and I think I meant something similar to your “err on the side of caution” which might be the best or at least, “first line of defense” best argument here..

          That having been said, I do think there is another “caution” principle given the ever larger amount of contaminants from an (also ever larger) list of types of contaminants…even if “bottom” of the food chain does take sea water in and out..which has small including microscopic contaminants including (but not limited to) microbeads…As a general principle, small “gulps” of water by animal kingdom members has in other areas, reached higher contamination than plants (even sea plants) for some contaminants (not all, iirc) so even lower than bottom of food chain from animal kingtom for me, means either sea plants only (and then even, careful research on what they ‘take in’, which my gut feeling says is less likely to include microbeads, than the ‘gut’ of even a bottom of food chain animal, into that animal’s cells….elements, like arsenic, can be another matter, plants can take those in easily depending on plant, element, environment..) and if that’s not safe seeming, then avoiding the sea for now. I do use “sprinkles” for iodine, from sea plants…I have reserached their safety some, maybe should research those more..

          And I am not claiming I have an air-tight argument here, but just outlining why sea plants might be (usually) closer to the “err on side of caution” for avoiding contaminants, than even bottom of food chain animals. Anyway glad to hear you don’t eat bivalves either! Peace :-)

    • David on May 5, 2016 at 4:44 pm

      Your partner is correct, Maddy. I’m a molecular and cellular biologist and chemist and I’ve written formal papers about bivalves. I work in pesticide and pharmaceutical research, so I know how to do non-opinion based research. Bivalves are actually _very_ heavily studied, just like every other large, international approved food product. However, the research is mostly still in primary literature format and not secondary articles, so it isn’t always free to access nor is its focus always totally relevant to veganism or ethics even while the data and analyses presented are. They have no CNS, no equipment to process any form of pain, thought, or emotions as they are defined biologically. Calling nerve ganglia “mini-brains” is not a fair statement in this case, because it brings forth inaccurate implications.

      Oysters, mussels, clams, and scallops all respond to various forms of stimuli because of their nerve ganglia, but they do not have a way to register the stimuli. A good way to think of this is when a doctor hits a human cadaver’s knee with a reflex hammer. If the body isn’t too decayed, the knee will reflex and jerk forward, because of localized stimuli processing. This obviously does not cause any pain to the cadaver, because the brain is disconnected from the nervous systems. Pain is an experience requiring certain biological assets that bivalves simply lack, just like sponges.

      Scallops and clams are a bit more advanced and they can also reflex in this way to light and motion stimuli on top of physical stimuli. This is somewhat analogous to a venus flytrap or a sunflower following the sun, and it allows them to be able to hide and crudely navigate, but there is still no sentience if applying the working biological definitions.

      On top of being environmentally friendly and ethical from a sentience standpoint, they also are extremely high in complete protein, B-vitamins, magnesium, and iron, which would allow someone who eats a mostly vegan diet to reduce their carbon footprint even more, since most vegans take heavily processed or synthesized supplements that require harvesting of crops that require large amount of farmland, nutrient extraction, mineral mining/extraction, and/or chemical synthesis, all of which require high levels of nonrenewable resources such as plastic for each stage, including for packaging. They also typically require long-distance shipping. Bivalve farming also requires significantly less land than soy and most other crops, can be grown vertically underwater via roping (which also protects the ocean floor, and has less secondary sentient death associated with them than plant harvesting methods according to the USDA (such as birds, mammals, and arthropods like thrips, mites, and grasshoppers).

      Someone that chooses to eat a diet based on helping the environment and causing less pain in the world would be hard-pressed to find real, bias-free data that says bivalves are less ethical than farming for supplements or producing avoidable plastic. Whether they are “vegan” or not doesn’t really make a difference to the science, as that is a word used to describe a lifestyle that strives to avoid consumption of animal products, with ethics not being intrinsically tied to it, nor being the sole driving philosophy for everyone following said diet. Palm oil, for example, is not ethical unless it is genuinely sustainably sourced (which is rare), but many vegans consume it anyway, knowing they are killing off endangered species and wiping out rainforests every time they eat it. It also doesn’t fit the bill to be considered not vegan because it is not an animal product, exemplifying the distinction. The same applies to coffee and various other mostly imported foods from places with 0 environmental or labor regulations.

      Institutions like Yale, Harvard, along with various ocean health centric non-profits institutions promote the farming and consumption of bivalves because growing them actually does a great job at filtering water and farming them can actually have a negative carbon footprint. It can improve the lives of sentient fish, crustaceans, birds, sea reptiles (like turtles), sentient mollusks (like octopuses), aquatic mammals, etc.

      The health effects of bivalve consumption are irrelevant to both veganism and ethics, although they are pretty settled. They do contain some cholesterol and fat, which would need to be monitored if eating them, but they are relatively low in heavy metals and other toxic substances compared to some produce and other sea life _if sourced correctly_ which can require a bit of research. They are very efficient filter feeders that focus on transforming the waste, rather than integrating it. To be distributed, they must fall below certain level requirements, just like tap water. Some areas certainly have more polluted water and thus more polluted sea life, but that also applies to sea plants according to recent research. In fact, some research points towards sea plants as being a major factor in why some fish contain high levels of mercury, as the sea plants absorb metals like mercury and are then eaten, thus introducing more of the metal into the food web.

  12. Jhoti Miro on October 3, 2016 at 12:12 am

    A long time Vegan, I discover, in my research on the subject, through a Plan Base MS in nutrition, that animals most often regarded as completely vegan, such as the well-known and oft-cited cows and goats, eat copious amounts of insects, their source of b-12. It is nearly impossible for them to sort out the plethora of insects found in their plant diet. No, they eat them along with the plant-based diet they evolved to sustain their lives. I am unwilling to go out and eat a plate of grasshoppers or deep fried ants, but the only essential vitamin lacking from a Vegan diet is B-12. which I attain from a vegan source. The exact ratio of omega 3 and 6 will be found in a tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseeds. People doing so should do their homework before misleading the well-meaning public with their pornographic images of animal slaughter.

    Bivalves are often called muscles for a very good reason- they act just like a muscle if a human or animal one were able to function independently of it’s sentient body. Being from the US State of Maine, I have harvested clams since childhood, with no ill effect. Horseradish, lemons, and tabasco sauce are served with raw oysters and cherrystones for a good reason: they kill the parasites most invariably found in such . foods. Bivalves have NO brain, NO face, and minimal cns! Some purist Vegans need to WAKE up and take care of their iodine and iron needs or die of such deficiencies; I hope they stop spiteing their own noses to save their paid for talk-circuit faces and dragging the informed, good public, down their wormhole of death just for publicity and speaking fees! Why be aggressive and combative when this is the behaviour which we so deplore!

  13. David Hanson on November 14, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    I’m loving this debate. I consider myself an ostro-beegan, which includes the use of bee made products, but for me only from natural, bee-centric beekeeping (but that’s for another post).

    But the values I choose do come from a ‘least harm’ point of view rather than trying to adhere to a label.

    On this issue of bivalves I am hoping one of the above more educating respondents could clarify if oysters and mussels have a filtering / cleansing effect on the ocean? Whilst I understand that with current pollution levels, consumption of bi-valve may increase your exposure to unwanted toxins, wouldn’t the farming of bi-valves increase the filtering of our seas.

    I do kind of see them as a sea plant, despite their animal categorisation.

    • David on November 17, 2016 at 4:42 pm

      Brian, they are filter feeders. Some nonprofits use them to improve water quality in bays. Farming them can be beneficial in that regard. Since they are filter feeders, they try not to incorporate heavy metal toxins and only incorporate what they can transform into nourishment.

      You can look at charts and statistics all over the internet from government or nonprofit sources and find that shellfish, including bivalves, have very low heavy metal content relative to other sea life. Farmed oysters and mussels are considered among the least toxic and healthiest sea life, while scallops are a close 2nd.

  14. M on January 3, 2017 at 9:51 am

    OK so reading all the posts here is interesting, i have been thinking about bivalves for a while… not for myself but for my obligate carnivour family members (the cats). I have recently contacted a vet that specialises in feline nutrition in the hope they can advise on whether mussels/oysters specifically can be incorporated into thier diet to reduce or eliminate their reliance on the animal agri industry… i have looked into plant based cat food and frankly i cant take those risk with the health of animals who i have taken responsibility for… i also dont put thier health at risk by feeding conventional cat food… anyway what i need to know maybe from some who knows is the levels of toxin in mussels and oysters and where i could source ones that have minimal levels… i do think there is a chance that they may expirence some thing…but not to the level of farmed animals and that by feeding my cats bivalves it would be a massive reduction in harm…

  15. Glen Burrows on October 22, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Something that is interesting to me here is the belief system that vegans live by which prevents them from making personal ethical decisions.

    Eating bivalves is not vegan as they are animals, however if someone who considers themselves to be vegan is thinking it’s ok to eat them and possibly eggs form their own chickens then the problem is coming from the vegan label. Free yourself from the label and you’re free to make your own decisions based on your own ethics.

  16. Stacey on June 4, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    I am ashamed that I allowed this loophole argument for myself to justify a “treat” of its flavor. I didnt stop and ask myself “is this a plant” (resounding Hell No) nor did I confirm “is this animal protein” What a jerk Ive been. I try so hard to open people’s eyes over the most common of the ethical debates (you kill plants!, etc) that this one fell into a silent little corner where I didnt defend it to myself even .. I am always wanting to learn more so that I can be a better spokesperson and ambassador of this lifestyle–I am grateful to you who do all the hard work to make my presentations less clumsy — thank you!

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