Tag Archives: environment

What is “Vegan”?

Typically something is vegan if it’s not an animal product. Vegans usually rationalize this choice by offering any or all of three justifications:

1. It’s better for the planet.

2. It’s better for the animal.

3. It’s better for my body.

Nothing is ever so grey as real life, even in the face of something that can seem very black and white. A question I’ve been pondering is “what about farmed shellfish?”

1. Is it better for the planet? After some research, I’ve learned that clams, oysters and mussels when farmed actually have a positive impact on their local environment when farmed. These organisms filter water of microscopic algae, plankton and other particulate from the water, leaving it cleaner than it was before the addition of the creatures. Because removing impurities from water is their food source, they require no outside food source like fish or corn meal, making them sustainable in terms of their nutritional requirements during farming. They can also be seeded on posts in shallow water, ropes in open water and bags in deeper water. These are retrieved when the bivalves are ready for consumption without bycatch or damage to the ocean floor (as opposed to dredging – the ocean’s environmental equivalent of clear-cutting a forest).

2. Is it better for the animals? Because I doubt the sentience of these organisms because of their highly simplified nervous systems. I subsequently doubt that they can suffer the was a suffocating fish can. If they’re also responsible for cleaning water, this improves the lives of other marine animals.

3. Is it better for my body? Molluscs offer a suite of nutrients that vegans often have trouble getting, including zinc and B12. The nutritional profiles of clams, mussels and oysters include copious omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, iron and protein. Unfortunately they’re also rich in cholesterol which I consider to be their only drawback.

Would I stop being a vegan if I decided to start occasionally including these organisms as food in my diet? I admit I would eat ants, grasshoppers, worms and snails if they were readily available so maybe this was inevitable. I’m curious as to what other vegans think.

This is Christie, signing off!

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Snips and Snails and Sentience

It happens pretty often when I tell people I’m vegan that people dream up a scenario where I’d have to eat meat. “Would you eat meat if you were stranded in an Arctic wasteland?”

Yes, actually, I would. I would eat Brent if it meant one of us would survive (sorry, Brent). But that’s not what’s happening here. Being vegan is a choice that I make every day, every time I walk into a supermarket, a restaurant or a cafeteria.
I make that choice because it’s better for my body, it’s better for the planet and last but not least it’s better for the animals. Fortunately for those of us who find that thinking and learning feel good, life is full of grey areas.

There are things I don’t eat but not because of my primary reasons for being vegan. Things like honey. I don’t think that bees suffer when we steal their hard earned honey. I doubt their sentience… or at least that they can suffer the way a fish does when it suffocates or a cow does spending her life chained to he wall of a concrete barn as we steal her babies and milk. I simply prefer maple syrup. I’m from the Northeast, what can I say.

I don’t eat shrimp, I also doubt their sentience. I don’t eat them because shrimping destroys seahorse habitat and as a long time SCUBA diver I can assure you that seahorses rock. I guess that fits into my ‘environment’ category. Oh well…

I also don’t eat mussels or escargot but I can’t really justify it in the regard that I don’t think that they are sentient, I don’t believe harvesting them destroys the environment and I don’t think they’re bad for my body (though all molluscs contains cholesterol, so it might fit into my personal health category)

So you might be wondering why I’m going on about things that aren’t vegan that I don’t eat for random reasons. There are 2 things I wanted to throw out there to get an idea of how other vegans respond to these issues. Lab grown meat is a phenomenon that would produce cruelty-free meat. Would you eat it if it were commercially available? I know a lot of vegans who would love to eat bacon from time to time. How does this compare? Would the resources be better spent elsewhere?

The other question is something that comes up when I talk to people who are crazy about the paleo diet. Why does the paleo diet ignore insects, worms and other bugs? Eating bugs is a major component of many diets by domesticated and wild humans alike… except in Westernized cultures. Our closest living relatives (evolutionarily speaking) also eat a diet consisting largely of bugs and foraged fruits and vegetables. I’m talking about chimpanzees. They’re kind of amazing… like seahorses. As a vegan, would you eat bugs? Chocolate covered ants? Fried grasshoppers? Are they as capable of suffering as mice? They’re environmentally friendly and inexpensive to grow relative to meat. They can even be grown on lawn clippings, rotting wood and other things humans often consider to be waste. They’re also nutritious. Personally, I doubt their sentience but that remains up for debate. Thoughts? Recommended reading?

This is Christie, signing off.

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