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Can vegans eat mussels?

La Fiorentina mussels
From this blog post (this was my mum's dish)

They say you learn something new everyday, and today (or, more accurately, when I wrote this post) I learned that I maybe didn't have to give up one of my favourite foods when I stopped eating meat. 

If the title of this post is anything to go by then you'll probably have guessed that the food in question is mussels. Seafood on the whole was one of my favourite food groups back in the day - give me a tuna sandwich (with a wee bit of sweetcorn) for lunch any day of the week and the cheap Tesco muscles were always sneaking about my fridge somewhere. Fish was the last type of meat I gave up prior to my transition and I'll be honest: I miss it. 

So gastro-reminiscing aside: wtf about mussels being vegan? Technically (maybe?), they are an animal and they do taste fleshy. So obviously if you don't eat meat for taste reasons then you could probably exit the conversation right now. HOWEVER, if you're a vegetarian or vegan who's reason is either an aversion to eating sentiment beings or because meat-farming is killing the planet, then we all need to sit down for a pow-wow.

Now, my research and knowledge on this topic is based on about, uh, three hours of Googling so I'd advise you carry out some of your own. Basically, the concept that mussels (and scallops and oysters too) could be vegan suitable came up in a vegan Facebook group, and the comments took off as apparently the internet has things to say about this. However, the jury seems very open on this issue and it doesn't look like there's going to be an official line drawn any time soon. 

So what are the arguments?

1. There's little evidence that mussels (and oysters and scallops) are sentient beings
While not a plant, scientific evidence leans more to suggesting (important word) that mussels react to threats similarly to plants. They don't scream out in the pain but they do react to the world around them. Mussels can close their shells to protect themselves, in the same vein that plants close up to protect themselves from gases. 

2. Mussel farming is sustainable
While there is a lot of scientific evidence to suggest that cutting meat from your diet is a sure-fire way to help get the health of the planet back on track, mussel-farming is meant to be a positive thing. A lot of the mussels that are available to buy (there are numerous kinds, and only some are suitable for human consumption) are farmed on ropes; not dug up from the seabed. 

Also, seafood is notorious for by-kills - such as dolphins caught in nets meant for tuna. Because mussels are raised in-shore and on ropes, it's very difficult to accidentally capture another creature from from the water while fishing. 

3. They're still technically an animal
For vegans who refuse to eat mussels, this is the main argument. And y'all I get it. Maybe mussels don't feel pain in the same way a cow does but they're still part of the animal kingdom and vegans should leave them the hell alone. 

So am I going to start eating mussels? 

Well, no. Despite having been one of my favourite foods back in the day (my mouth has been salivating writing this post) I'm not going to head to the shops and bulk-buy. While I think this is an issue that is 100% up to the individual and I would hold no judgement, I'm deciding against it for myself. And it's because it could be a slippery slope. I'm not exaggerating when I say I loved seafood and ripping into a packet of mussels could result in re-developing a taste for other sea-life (that are definitely out the question for any vegan!).

As I mentioned, I'm not a scientist (I have Standard Grade Biology....which I tried to get out of doing because I'm an arty-farty person) but if you want to read more from people who understand oxygen compounds or whatnot (is that a thing?) then here's a few links because this issue has been going on longer than my own personal decision to stop eating meat:
- The ethical case for eating mussels and oysters
- Consider the oyster
- Are oysters vegan? 
- Are we strong enough to talk about mussels?
- Why some vegans are okay with eating oysters
Are Bivalves Vegan? Specifically Oysters and Mussels?
- Vegans shouldn't eat oysters, and if you do you're not vegan, so...
- Did you seafood feel pain?
- Do oysters feel pain? 
- Mussels: your go to sustainable seafood

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