Saturday, April 10, 2010

Are Oysters Vegan?

Christopher Cox, a self-labeled vegan, just wrote a trenchant and provocative article at, in which he defends his decision to eat oysters. Predictably, the article is drawing a firestorm of criticism from many vegans, who are branding Cox a heretic.

I think the article is a must-read for veg activists. Cox digs into into tough but vital questions of labeling, purity, and absolutism. He writes:

"When I became a vegan, I didn't draw an X through everything marked "Animalia" on the tree of life. And when I pick out my dinner, I don't ask myself: What do I have to do to remain a vegan? I ask myself: What is the right choice in this situation? Eating ethically is not a purity pissing contest, and the more vegans or vegetarians pretend that it is, the more their diets start to resemble mere fashion—and thus risk being dismissed as such."

So, whaddya think?

P.S. If you find Cox's commentary interesting, check out Michael Greger's classic article on honey.


  1. On oysters, I concur with author Joan Dunayer, who says:
    "Evidence of sentience is compelling with regard to animals who have a brain and increasingly strong with regard to invertebrates who lack a brain but have a nervous system. Therefore, any creature with a nervous system should receive the benefit of the doubt and be regarded as sentient. Why would beetles, oysters, or anyone else with a nervous system not be sentient?"

    Regarding honey- humans have no need to eat this either, and as such, should not continue to harm bees by exploiting them for their secretions. If you haven't seen the "Why Honey is Not Vegan" page, it's worth checking out:

  2. Here's my response to the oyster piece by Christopher Cox:

  3. I think this is a simplistic dismissal of a much more important issue. See podcast on iTunes, Veganacious/Oysters, oy! or read it at It is not about purist philosophy but about living with respect for other life forms. Recent research is showing such dismissal to be very misguided. The extremist label is one I would happily wear if it means being consistent about principals. I am a purist or an extremist when it comes to thinking it is unacceptable to commodify and use children for servants or sexual gratification. Being semi-vegan is akin to the moral confusion that grips those who love dogs and eat pigs.