Ostrovegan – Sensible or Senseless? The ethics surrounding eating oysters and mussels
Although it might seem like just another way to make explaining your diet to friends and family ever more difficult, there is a lot more behind why some people choose to eat ostrovegan.
Ostrovegan refers to a vegan diet that technically shouldn’t be defined as vegan at all. Ostrovegans follow a standard vegan diet with a couple bivalves (oysters and mussels) thrown into the mix. But it isn’t just for fun. There are plenty of reasons people turn to veganism, whether it is for health reasons, sustainability or to help reduce animal suffering in the world. Yet is it possible for someone to eat a living creature and still justify a healthier, more sustainable and cruelty free diet? In this article I will outline some of the main arguments I have found for ostroveganism and let you decide whether they hold any water. Great! So now it’s time to be open-minded…
Killing is cruel!
This is usually where the most heat in the debate is generated. The ostrovegan would argue that it all comes down to the nervous system of mussels and oysters and their ability (or lack of) to feel pain, and therefore attempt to counter the argument against animal suffering and cruelty.
These two bivalves have a very simple nervous system that is not centralised in anything closely related to a brain. They are very simply made creatures with two pairs of nerve cords and three pairs of ganglia. There have yet to be any indications found of behavioural or neurophysiological responses to tissue damage in bivalves. In other similar invertebrates, like prawns, behaviours have been noted to change in response to injury, which is an indication that some form of pain reception is active. It is unlikely that oysters and mussels have the hard-wiring to process external stimuli as pain as there is no central nervous processing unit that is required for a being to have a sense of its self in pain.
However the science is not conclusive on this matter. So despite what is more or less likely, for some it may be better to steer clear until we know for sure.
You can get everything from plant foods!
Everything except vitamin B-12, which we know a deficiency in can lead to some very severe consequences (nerve damage & dementia). Most of us get our B-12 from supplements or reinforced foods like cereal or milk alternatives. However you might need to drink and eat a lot of it to make sure you are getting your daily recommended intake. Ostroveganism could potentially solve your B-12 woes. Mussels are the second best source out of ANY food. Ever. They come second only to beef liver, and not even omnis want to eat that. They contain around 24micrograms of B-12 for every 100grams. The recommended daily intake of B-12 is about 2.4micrograms for the average adult so a small portion of mussels would handsomely provide you with a full day or twos B-12.
Mussels are also packed with protein and Omega-3 – two more essentials that can be a bit of a challenge to come by.
Animal farming just isn’t sustainable…
…unless you never have to actively feed the animals and they help clean the environment they live it. As far as we know mussels and oysters are a benefit to their immediate ecosystems. They have been known to improve local water quality by filtering out excess nitrogen. They will not however clean a dirty river or lake as they need relatively clean standards to survive and be clean enough themselves to eat. It’s also because they are filter feeders that they do not need to be fed anything that doesn’t already exist in the water already.
This does not apply to all mussels however. Some cultivation methods require dredging to collect spat (the “seeds”) that become adult mussels. Yet rope cultured mussels do not involve dredging which would indicate that sustainably-minded ostrovegans might want to promote rope bred mussels as their primary source.
Finally, the farming of these bivalves have shown to have very little impact on their surrounding environment in terms of displacement and other animal death. So little that it may cause less damage than soy and grain fields.
In the end…
Well there you have it. Three of the main reasons why some vegans eat animals and are somehow still considered vegan. When we make the life choice to follow a certain diet it needs to come from a personal conviction to do so. That’s exactly why many of us have different ideas about what is right and wrong when it comes to vegan scripture. Hopefully this article can help create a greater understanding in the nuances behind differing vegan diets and reduce the judgement that can all too often be found within the community.
Let us know your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below.