Concerning the Consumption of Organisms of Questionable Sentience...

Pickle Juice

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I've seen this in lots of places over the years. Some wiseguy comes along and decides to test our understanding of why we are vegan by asking us why we don't eat oysters.

The usual reply is a definitional one. Oysters are animals and vegans don't eat animals. End of story.

I can see why this answer isn't sufficient for many.

My usual answer is that I prefer to give oysters the benefit of the doubt as to their potential sentience, since they are closely related to highly intelligent invertebrates like octopi and squids. This should be sufficient for most, since abstinence from an activity generally needs no justification. I would say the burden of justification lies upon the one suggesting vegans should consider consuming oysters, since they do not appear to be self aware.

My problem with people who argue that oysters have none of the organs mammals use for thinking and perceiving, and thus are no more self aware than plants, is the human-centric idea that since humans think with their brains and feel with their central nervous systems, lack of a mammalian brain and central nervous system is undeniable proof that any organism without them cannot be said to think or feel. I don't find this argument compelling enough to make the claim that oysters are no more sentient than plants.

Of course clever people will come along and say that if oysters don't need mammalian organs to think or perceive, neither do plants. There is no evolutionary advantage to plants having sentience though, so it is unlikely they have ever developed self awareness. They have adapted to other mechanisms for surviving.

Oysters are likened to plants mostly because they are attached to their substrate, and cannot flee their predators like other mollusks. Many mollusks are capable of rapid evasion though. Lots of them have eyes, which are pretty complex organs, and which wouldn't be likely to have evolved if there was no perceptive ability from which to benefit from being able to see their environment. Oysters are related to a large enough number of species who are sentient that I don't think it is unreasonable to give them the benefit of the doubt that they may have self awareness and an interest in being alive, especially when some scientists have proposed the possibility of a secondary nerve network housed in the stomach, that functions as a very rudimentary brain and nervous system in some animals. Oysters may not have mammalian brains, but they do have stomachs.

Ok, discuss!
 

Marie

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It looks like it says "Concerning the Consumption of Pickle Juice" out on the forum list. :p
 
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kibbleforlola

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You put it much more succinctly than I ever could, but "the benefit of the doubt" is my usual answer too.

If pressed further, I will say environmental concerns envolved in oyster (and seafood in general) farming is enough to make me not want to consume them.

If pressed even further, I will say my reasons are my own, and no idiot is going to make me rethink them. And then I will probably call them an idiot again. :p
 

beancounter

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Oysters are likened to plants mostly because they are attached to their substrate, and cannot flee their predators like other mollusks. Many mollusks are capable of rapid evasion though. Lots of them have eyes, which are pretty complex organs, and which wouldn't be likely to have evolved if there was no perceptive ability from which to benefit from being able to see their environment. Oysters are related to a large enough number of species who are sentient that I don't think it is unreasonable to give them the benefit of the doubt that they may have self awareness and an interest in being alive, especially when some scientists have proposed the possibility of a secondary nerve network housed in the stomach, that functions as a very rudimentary brain and nervous system in some animals. Oysters may not have mammalian brains, but they do have stomachs.

Ok, discuss!
I don't see anything wrong with the answer I gave. It was defintitive and to the point. If someone needs more of an explaination, then maybe they just shouldn't be vegetarian.

The guy is a troll and his toxic mems should not spread to this forum.
 
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ElaineV

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I agree with all of your thinking except for the reliance on "evolutionary advantage." Things evolve for all kinds of reasons and may have no advantage at all (appendix?). I do not think it is reasonable to assume some organism doesn't have an ability merely because there doesn't seem to be an evolutionary advantage to having that ability. It's possible that we simply don't know what the advantage is. Or perhaps there is no advantage but the ability remains (example, there's not really a good reason why women should experience extreme pain during childbirth so why haven't we evolved to a point where our nervous system does its own sort of epidural?) it could be that some organisms experience pain as a remnant of evolution and perhaps in the future they will not experience pain... Or vice versa.
 

apple

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My usual answer is that I prefer to give oysters the benefit of the doubt as to their potential sentience, since they are closely related to highly intelligent invertebrates like octopi and squids.
I really like that...

Oysters are likened to plants mostly because they are attached to their substrate, and cannot flee their predators like other mollusks. (...) especially when some scientists have proposed the possibility of a secondary nerve network housed in the stomach, that functions as a very rudimentary brain and nervous system in some animals. Oysters may not have mammalian brains, but they do have stomachs.

Just my biological five cents: oysters and mussels DO have a nervous system. It consists of a rather simple nerve network and ganglia - enough to control their movements and senses. Plants do not have nerves. And at least the juvenil stages of oysters and other mussels are larvae floating/swimming with the plankton and undergoing a complex metamorphosis. These larvae are capable of active movement and possess receptors to distinct dark and light. Just telling from their nervous system, mussels do not possess something we humans call self consciousness.
But do they feel pain? If one defines pain as a sensory signal associated with putative danger or tissue damage, I would not vote "No"...
 
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Lord Snot

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I agree with all of your thinking except for the reliance on "evolutionary advantage." Things evolve for all kinds of reasons and may have no advantage at all (appendix?). I do not think it is reasonable to assume some organism doesn't have an ability merely because there doesn't seem to be an evolutionary advantage to having that ability. It's possible that we simply don't know what the advantage is. Or perhaps there is no advantage but the ability remains (example, there's not really a good reason why women should experience extreme pain during childbirth so why haven't we evolved to a point where our nervous system does its own sort of epidural?) it could be that some organisms experience pain as a remnant of evolution and perhaps in the future they will not experience pain... Or vice versa.

Actually it's emerging that the appendix does have a function related to antibody production, and it probably had a much more important function in the past.

The important question to consider is why would an organism evolve from feeling pain to not feeling pain?
 

Scorpius

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I have never had anyone give me a hard time about oysters (which is odd because I know a lot of smart-asses who like to ask me things like if taking an anti-venom after getting bit by a poisonous snake would be vegan :rolleyes: ) and their vegan-ness. Honey and sponges are usually ones people rag me about.
 
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Pickle Juice

Pickle Juice

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I don't see anything wrong with the answer I gave. It was defintitive and to the point. If someone needs more of an explaination, then maybe they just shouldn't be vegetarian.

The guy is a troll and his toxic mems should not spread to this forum.
I didn't read your post there. I think it is worth discussing here in case people need argumentation in real life situations, since I have seen people bring this up over and over, and just saying "because it's an animal and we don't eat animals" is a weakness in our stance.

Actually it's emerging that the appendix does have a function related to antibody production, and it probably had a much more important function in the past.
Yeah same with the tonsils. There is no waste in nature, just developments whose functions we probably don't yet understand.

The important question to consider is why would an organism evolve from feeling pain to not feeling pain?
Yeah. I tend to favor argumentation that asks questions like this and relies on logic and reasoning, not just on experimentally confirmed evidence.
 

beancounter

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I didn't read your post there. I think it is worth discussing here in case people need argumentation in real life situations, since I have seen people bring this up over and over, and just saying "because it's an animal and we don't eat animals" is a weakness in our stance.

My statement assumes that the person asking the question is already aware of the reasons why people go veg. ..(like the OP of the oyster thread). It's clearly an attempt to be arguementative for the sake of being arguementative.

If someone is truely ignorant of the reasons to go veg, that's a different story...but it is not the case here.
 
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Pickle Juice

Pickle Juice

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I seriously doubt that there are any organisms in our biosphere in possession of organs they no longer have a use for. I think it much more likely that we are not able to understand their use, rather than that they have no use.
 
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Pickle Juice

Pickle Juice

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My statement assumes that the person asking the question is already aware of the reasons why people go veg. ..(like the OP of the oyster thread). It's clearly an attempt to be arguementative for the sake of being arguementative.

If someone is truely ignorant of the reasons to go veg, that's a different story...but it is not the case here.
Not the case where? I am not a troll trying to argue with people here. I think the subject is worth discussing when brought up by a vegan. If a troll should ever show up here to present us with this argument, we can refer them to this thread.
 

apple

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Sorry, I just feel the need to say this: Evolution is not a straight route to gain advantage or to use something. It's not directed at anything. Some things are still there just because they are not a disadvantage (not for an individual, but for a population as a whole over a longer time).

Regarding the fact that there is already a weird discussion about breeding engineered animals with a decreased ability to percept pain for worried customers :fp:, I think this discussion here is necessary, just as Pickle Juice said. If we are against speciesism, we should be able to explain our view clearly. Where do we draw the line? And why?
What's your point?
Self consciousness? Complexity of nervous system? Ability to feel pain? Genetic distance/resemblance to mammals like us?
By the way these are all human centred points...
 
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Pickle Juice

Pickle Juice

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Sorry, I just feel the need to say this: Evolution is not a straight route to gain advantage or to use something. It's not directed at anything. Some things are still there just because they are not a disadvantage (not for an individual, but for a population as a whole over a longer time)...
Well whatever mutation ends up providing an advantage for one species over another is what natural selection will favor. My main argument is against the idea that if we humans can't yet discover a use for a seemingly useless organ, there is no use for it.