[quote="jacket"]This is an issue I've been wondering about since reading something about in passing in The Ethics of What We Eat, by Peter Singer. He basically said in passing that oysters (technically bivalves, which include scallops/clams/oysters/mussels) were really in essence no different from plants
As a student of the tree of life in all its microbial glory, I'd say we're in essence no different from plants too. But that's a different story (cont. p94) which is a little too deep for Singer to understand.
Singer seems to be making the argument on the basis that oysters are sessile benthic organisms, which is the invertebrate zoologist's £20 word way of saying they sit on the seabed and do fuck all apart from filterfeeding.
You could replace "seabed" with "sofa" and "filterfeeding" with "watching Jeremy Kyle" and use it as an argument for eating the serially unemployed. And students.
Genetically, oysters are animals. They're well seated within the mollusc phylum. If you want to diss the mollusc phylum as being planty, prepare to diss 18 out of 29 of the phyla of the animal kingdom as being infinitely more "planty"
Regarding sentience, I'm aware from the days when I was inflicted with those £20 words that molluscs are definitely aware enough of their surroundings. They are easily enough pissed off by an intruding HB pencil.
All this highlights is the mega problem with listening to philosophers such as Singer say nuthin' and say it loud about biology. Big ethical proclaimations can be made by these people (sometimes sensible ones) but often about things which they have no more understanding than an interested layperson.
All this said, in fairness to Singer, the internets tell me he said this in 1975 and has since retracted the assertion that they're plant-like. I'd like to think someone from the zoology faculty reached over the table in the refectory at Princeton and bitchslapped him with a stinging nettle for it.
I would hope that someone from the ecology faculty borrows that nettle soon as he's now claiming there are no environmental grounds upon which not to eat oysters. There are.
I'm not an intertidal zone biologist but before one floats by are a few off the top of my head.
*Oysters are keystone species. That is they play a fundamental role in structuring their habitat and the community of organisms present in it. Fuck with them, you fuck the whole habitat. Dozens of other species depend on them. It would be like killing beavers and expecting no change in the whole riverine catchment when their dams wash away.
*Oysters filterfeed litres and litres of water. They extract lots of nasties from them. These include nitrogenous pollutants. We sweat about CO2 but the other big pollutants (post Haber process definitely) are nitrates and ammonia. These are awesome nutrients and their presence in excess results in eutrophication and phytoplankton blooms. These use up much of the dissolved oxygen and results in big problems for other aquatic life forms. Oysters suck up nitrogen sources like nothing else. This keeps their whole postal code tickety boo.
*They also accumulate a range of toxic substances. Heavy metals, nasty organic compounds and human pathogens all get taken out of circulation. To the extent that if you want a picture of the "health" of an area, you look at its oysters and mussels.
In conclusion, this argument is Singer at his speciesist best, arguing that because something isn't fluffy or furry or just recognizably animal at the first glance it's OK to eat. I've made arguments elsewhere (cont. p94) that even plants aren't that stoopid really and that much of the living world is far more switched on than we give it credit. At the end of the day even veganism is a compromise. I wonder what would he make of that when having compile lists of what's OK to eat and is not in his uneducated opinion.