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The Ethics of Shrimp?


VegannNY
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Hi -

 

Wanted to run this by the group - I've been a vegan for 3 years now, and don't really have anyone likeminded in my social circle (my husband, for instance, is totally omni...)

 

My reasoning for being vegan is completely on moral grounds - ie: I don't want to kill or cause suffering to any creature that is sentient (capable of feeling pain, and is self-aware in some manner.)

 

Have to admit, I'm not vegan in regards to honey for just that reason - I have serious doubts as to whether bees have any sense of self at all.

 

But recently, I've been questioning the same thing re: some crustaceans - esp. oysters, scallops, mussels and shrimp. I've googled around to get some idea of what nervous system such animals have, and whether they could be argued to be self-aware at all. If it could be argued that these creatures aren't self-aware...well, then I really see no moral problem with eating them. (I know it wouldn't be vegan - but it would be within my personal definition of morally acceptable...)

 

Would love to hear some input on this from other moral vegans on this issue...since the best I'd probably get from my husband is "eat them, they're tasty...)

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Shrimp is pretty much the worst food you could eat environmentally. For every 1 pound of shrimp you eat, there are 5 pounds of other animals killed and discarded, including fish, sharks, turtles, and marine mammals.

Also, these animals possess the capacity for "taxis" or an active response to aversive stimuli, indicating a need for self preservation. That, plus the outrageous cholesterol and toxin amounts are good enough for me to steer clear!

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HawaiiDolphin is right. Even if your reasons for being vegan are to avoid eating sentient beings, shrimp vessels catch a crap-ton of other animals as collateral damage, many of which are vertebrates (which I think you'd be less comfortable with).

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Hi Medman -

 

Valid point re: the collateral damage - and it's definitely something that's weighing into my considerations. (Then that little voice in my head wonders how much collateral damage is caused from harvesting plant crops...???)

 

College B: ?!? Can you clarify? My personal stance is that's immoral (or simply wrong within my personal value system) to harm a creature that is capable of sensing it/being aware of the pain. Given that assumption (?), the sentience level of invertebrates would definitely be relevant....

 

Thx though...!

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Animals with any nervous system, which these animals you speak of, along with bees, have pain receptors of some sort. They also have eyes, and other sense organs. They have the ability to move freely in the environment they live, they avoid death when possible, they eat when hungry, what the fuck more does someone who supposedly doesnt want to cause harm to living creatures ask for?

I understand that you may not have anyone else to hash this out with in your life, and what a better place to do that but here, but I promise you that all creatures that you can do without harming are worth you doing just that, and that when a creature has a nervous system and the ability to avoid pain and death then it also has the ability to suffer. When lobsters are placed in boiling water they do make a noise, this is not an automated machine like reaction like "scientists" back in the day would try to have you think, this is pain, suffering, period.

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My reasoning for being vegan is completely on moral grounds - ie: I don't want to kill or cause suffering to any creature that is sentient (capable of feeling pain, and is self-aware in some manner.

 

(Then that little voice in my head wonders how much collateral damage is caused from harvesting plant crops...???)

 

The lesser of two evils?

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not personal so much, its just that I spend the most of my life defending living things from people, and I get really defensive of creatures. It is very obvious that living creatures with nervous systems have the ability to suffer, and I will forever stand up and defend those without a voice, no matter if they happen to have the personality of a dog or cat or pig, or the simplistic automation of a shrip.

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Everyone has the right to draw their own moral line. For some people, that line encompasses eating anything they feel like. For others, it means avoiding meat but not dairy or eggs. I think it's great that VegannNy is figuring out where that line lies for him/her.

 

If you want a good, brief summary of Trawling, the fishing method used to catch shrimp, Wikipedia has a decent page - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trawling . You might like to note that midwater trawling, the type used to catch shrimp, catches many varieties of fish as well. There's even a specific note that shrimp trawling produces the largest amount of "by-catch" (this makes sense, since the holes in the net need to be extremely small to catch shrimp, meaning any size fish is going to be caught in it as well).

 

As for "collateral damage" produced by farming - it is absolutely miniscule in comparison. The density of animals in farmland is far less than the density of animals in the vast tracts of ocean that each trawler cleans out with each catch. Someone tried to do some very flawed calculations years ago to show that vegetarians "killed more animals" than meat-eaters, and it was very quickly debunked by agriculture experts who used proper data.

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It's got a nervous system, therefore you can't eat/drink/wear XXX (insert animal) and call yourself vegan, simple as that. It really doesn't matter to the animal what worth you put on their lives, all animals have an innate instinct to survive, or else the species would have been long since extinct. I understand that bees, for instance, have a complicated way of communicating with eachother, to let each other know where food can be found etc. They might not have anything else that you can relate to a human being, but hey, they have wings and can fly! If bees were to judge our worth by our ability to fly on our own steam, we'd be stuffed, regardless of any other qualities we are deemed to have

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Everyone has the right to draw their own moral line. For some people, that line encompasses eating anything they feel like. For others, it means avoiding meat but not dairy or eggs. I think it's great that VegannNy is figuring out where that line lies for him/her.

 

If you want a good, brief summary of Trawling, the fishing method used to catch shrimp, Wikipedia has a decent page - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trawling . You might like to note that midwater trawling, the type used to catch shrimp, catches many varieties of fish as well. There's even a specific note that shrimp trawling produces the largest amount of "by-catch" (this makes sense, since the holes in the net need to be extremely small to catch shrimp, meaning any size fish is going to be caught in it as well).

 

As for "collateral damage" produced by farming - it is absolutely miniscule in comparison. The density of animals in farmland is far less than the density of animals in the vast tracts of ocean that each trawler cleans out with each catch. Someone tried to do some very flawed calculations years ago to show that vegetarians "killed more animals" than meat-eaters, and it was very quickly debunked by agriculture experts who used proper data.

/thread

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Hey Medman -

 

Thanks for the nod...and you've definitely got a point about the collateral damage issue. (From what I understand, more and more shrimp are farmed...which raises it's own rather significant problems re: health. IE: lots of antibiotics thrown into the water, resulting in more resistant strains of bacteria, and very sick, crowded shrimp. So it doesn't solve the problem, but adds yet another layer of issues to the question.)

 

Of course, I *do* know that I can't eat anything animal and call myself a pure vegan.

 

But what definitely *does* bother me is the all-or-nothing vibe that I (personally) feel from some vegans. And I could see where it would be a major turn off for some people on the outside considering veganism. (Heck, it's a turn off for me, and I agree with the vast majority of vegan philosophy already.)

 

I'm still working out exactly what my thoughts are on all the issues....but at least IMHO, the overall purpose of veganism is not "to be a pure vegan" for it's own sake.

 

The reason why (at least why I) have turned to veganism is a desire to not kill/hurt other creatures, or economically promote/support the suffering of other species. For that reason, I *definitely* have turned away permanently from eating cows, pigs, chickens, fish....anything that I think is undeniably capable of experiencing pain. Also, the horrors of practices such as debeaking, and the dairy industry (for me) have turned me away from consuming eggs and dairy products. I just can't justify buying such products and thereby putting money in the hands of people who are responsible for such practices (in theory, I have *no* problem with the idea of eating eggs from a pet chicken...but that definitely isn't going to happen in NYC...and no, I personally wouldn't feel guilty under such circumstances for stealing eggs, as long as the chicken was cared for and well taken care of.)

 

But there are a few tenets that I do question...for instance, I *really do* question whether such creatures as oysters/mussels have any sense of self at all. (Shrimp, that's more borderline of a case from what I can tell.) And honestly--for me--if an animal doesn't have any sense of self-awareness, I really can't see the reason to abstain. (Unless, as Medman and others have reasonably argued, the practice of cultivation does result in impact to other creatures that can feel and suffer.) Heck, Peter Singer himself said at least at one point that he questioned whether oysters and mussels counted as deserving of consideration.

 

One of the other issues I do somewhat question is whether to avoid what I would consider negligible amounts of animal product in restaurant food. Honestly, I'm somewhat torn on that. To a certain extent, being vegan is a symbolic stance (ie: the animal industry isn't going to be impacted whether or not I abstain from eating animal products. I'm only one consumer.) So it's a symbolic stance on my part, and the possibility of influencing others indirectly by my example. So say there's a bit of milk in the restaurant bread. If I abstain, I do make a statement (and really limit what I can eat). That can be positive, if it brings awareness to others in the group about the issue. On the other hand, it makes me look like a "picky vegan" which could also be a negative, esp. if I'm viewed as someone who always ends up grilling the waitstaff about food additives. Honestly, I'm leaning towards letting things like that go.

 

I know that makes me less than a vegan by definition.

But I would HOPE that my other actions would be positives, not negated due to my not following the full "party line". (I would also hope that such an opinion wouldn't result in me being lumped in with people who just call themselves vegan and then occasionally eat beef, etc... Though I'm sure that's how some would view it.)

 

I'm really, really not trying to be inflammatory. It's just that these are important issues and questions for me, and this forum seems the proper venue for that type of discussion. Again...as the sole vegan in my group (or quasi-vegan, if you prefer), it's definitely my best option for discussion.

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I don't see welfarist arguments such as minimizing harm to be the root of the problem. Animal use is the problem. To me Animal exploitation is immoral and trying to justify your exploitation of life based on "well they don't feel pain or it's free range" doesn't really cut it for me nor get at the immorality of the whole thing. Also I think seafood is really gross so I wouldn't encourage anyone to eat it.

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College B -

 

From what I understand of your definition of welfarist, I'm not - my position is strictly moral, working from a different starting point/assumption of what constitutes moral vs. immoral action. For me, if there's no sense of self (such as--probably--an oyster, then there's no life and no moral issue to contemplate.) Just to clarify. But I respect your opinion.

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CollegeB -

 

From my understanding of your definition, my position isn't welfarist. Just to clarify - it's strictly moral...working from a different assumption and starting point of what is moral, vs. what isn't. For me, if it can be argued that there is no sense of self, spark of life, awareness, etc in a thing (be it fleshy, mechanical, etc) then there is no moral issue. But I respect that you feel differently.

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