We always tend to define veganism as strictly avoiding the consumption of animal products and by-products. This is where we miss the point. Vegans adopt different lifestyles depending on what drove them to veganism. It could be to advocate for animal welfare, health reasons, to protect the ecosystem, or for religious reasons. However, the title changes when they incorporate any animal meat. The question of whether invertebrates such as scallops are safe for vegans or not has always remained conflicting. Some people go to the extent of comparing them to plants and rocks just because they are non-sentient; they have no brain in the sense that you and I do.
Are scallops vegan? No, they are not! Scallops are living things belonging to the taxonomic kingdom Animalia. They further fall under bivalves; a group of sea creatures that have a hinged shell. When it comes to bivalves, the line between animal and plant becomes murky. Therefore, some people consume them in the defence that they do not ‘suffer’ since they lack a central nervous system.
Should vegans consume bivalves such as scallops? Yes, they can, upon which they immediately forego the title. There is no such thing as strictly vegan and not-strictly vegan. The title is meant to guide one in the vegan lifestyle. Therefore, the point where some vegans are eating scallops and giving justifications makes the issue more complicated.
- Is it okay to compare them with complex animals such as vertebrates?
- What makes us think they do not feel?
- Maybe they do feel but in a way that we cannot comprehend since it is not as clear as in mammals.
Keep reading to find out everything there is to know about scallops.
Are Scallops Vegan?
Scallops are animals but to make it more complicated, some people consider seafood to be vegan. Therefore, it all comes down to what one considers vegan or not. In this article, I have given detailed information on scallops; their physiology, mode of feeding, and how they are harvested. You’ll also get to learn whether they can feel pain, whether they are important in the ecosystem, and the effects of capturing them. This will help you conclude if they should be protected or included in a vegan diet.
Can scallops feel?
As mentioned earlier, there have been claims that scallops are not sentient, but even the experts can’t prove whether this is true or not. Even so, is the dredging and killing of scallops less inhuman because they lack a brain? After all, they exhibit behaviour just like other animals. They have about 200 eyes along the periphery of their bodies, which detect light and movement. They do ‘flap’ their shells upon sensing any danger, which enables them to swim away at a surprisingly high speed. Without the obvious faces or legs, it is equally difficult to tell if they can feel pain when harmed. Moreover, they have a nervous system called ganglia, which is much simpler than that of vertebrates. This enables them to survive in their surroundings and respond to aversive stimuli.
Effects of killing scallops
Scallops play a great role in the ecosystem; therefore, eliminating them we cause damage to the environment. They feed by filtering out water pollutants and consuming the filtrate. One scallop can filter several gallons of water in a day. By doing this, they purify the water making it safe for other sea creatures. Removing any animal from the ecosystem interferes with its sustainability.
Dredging of scallops and dragging them from the ocean floor using trawls causes harm to the environment. To begin with, other sea creatures such as turtles can be caught up in the huge nets. The rake-edged dredges can easily damage the nearby ecosystems. Cases of by-catch (a sea creature that is unwanted but is captured in the nets) are very common. They are thrown back into the water dead in most cases. This is an ethical reason enough for vegans to reject the idea of including scallops in their diet.
Nutritional value of scallops
Now that you know that as a vegan you should abstain from the consumption of scallops, how do you obtain their nutrients from your vegan diet? First, you have to know the nutritional content of the scallops. They are highly nutritious and sources of minerals such as zinc, copper, iron, and selenium. Adequate intake of selenium promotes proper thyroid function and a healthy defence system. On the other hand, zinc promotes proper growth and brain function while copper prevents heart disease and diabetes. Scallops are also rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids and proteins.
Omega-3 boosts one’s mood reducing the risk of falling into depression. Scallops also aid in weight loss since they have low calories and high levels of proteins. They are rich in vitamin B12, which aids in cardiovascular functions. However, if you wanted to consume the sea creature for its nutritional value, you can obtain these nutrients from other vegan foods.
Reasons to Avoid Scallops, Vegan or Not
Might cause allergic reactions:
Shellfish such as scallops are among the most common food allergens. People can be allergic to a certain group of shellfish and be tolerant of others. The allergy is a result of the human immune system reacting against the protein tropomyosin. Symptoms of the allergy include; diarrhoea and vomiting, shortness of breath and coughing, swollen tongue and lips, difficulty in swallowing, blue and pale skin, dizziness, and in worst cases, it can cause an allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock, which is life-threatening.
May contain heavy metals:
Can you imagine the level of pollution seawater is exposed to? Well, in addition to being the main source of pollution, we have our share of the consequences. Seafood contains a lot of harmful metals and other substances in which we consume it. Scallops might be containing heavy metals such as mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium. Accumulation of these heavy metals in your body is tragic.
Chronic exposure to arsenic causes cancer, the accumulation of lead metal results in serious injury to major organs, cadmium causes kidney damage, and finally, consumption of mercury decreases the functioning of the brain. It is important to note that even though scallops have a low level of mercury and lead, they have high build-ups of cadmium.
Not to raise any alarms with the above, scallops are safe to eat provided you are not allergic. The possibility of them having metals is very low. However, it is advisable to avoid scallops if you are an older adult, a pregnant woman, a young child, or a nursing woman. If you do not fall under the above, and you are not vegan, you can enjoy scallops, most by searing them with butter, pepper, and salt.
What about Vegans Who Eat Scallops?
Then… they aren’t vegans! First of all, let it be clear that neither vegans nor vegetarians eat animals! Once vegans eat seafood, they become ostrovegans while vegetarians become pescatarians. Ostrovegans mostly choose this diet for nutritional reasons. Nobody should dictate what you consume. However, the issue arises when people use titles that do not define them. This becomes somewhat an insult and disrespect to those of us who uphold the title.
A true vegan cannot try to justify animal exploitation, but rather advocate for their welfare. If you want to eat scallops you are free to do so, but it is either you are eating them for nutrients or because they taste good. How can one eat an animal just because it feels no pain? Is this justification logic? The fact that one has to seek an ethical explanation for consuming scallops shows they know it is wrong in the first place.
Scallops do not have a face to display their emotion like vertebrates. They also cannot scream like us or produce any sound of a cry for help. This does not mean they are not in distress when they are harmed. When diving in the sea to catch them, they can ‘pinch’ and they also try to run away. This shows they are conscious of danger only that they react differently from other animals. How developed the nervous system of an animal is shouldn’t be used to determine how lesser of an animal it is; they are all animals and should be treated with the same empathy.
There is barely enough research results on these creatures. They have proven to be a specimen that is difficult to study due to their limited movements and behaviour. Therefore it is unfair to conclude anything about them without giving them the benefit of doubt. They are still under scientific study, and most importantly, they are still animals.
What Can Vegans Replace Scallop With?
The number of people adopting veganism is increasing every day, creating the need for alternative products for vegans. The food industry is, therefore, responding to fill this gap (see above Tofuscallop). In this regard, vegans can replace scallops with vegan scallops. These are ‘fake’ scallops that resemble the real ones although they are just smartly-cut stems from king oyster mushrooms.
Preparing vegan scallops is very easy. All you need is 2 king oyster mushrooms stems, 2 thyme sprigs, 1 lightly-mashed garlic clove, extra-virgin olive oil, kitchen salt, and freshly cracked pepper.
Cut the king oyster mushroom stems into scallop-like shapes of 2 inches
Fill a container with warm water and soak them overnight or for at least one hour
Drain the water and place the stems on a paper-towel-laid plate and pat them dry
Place a pan over mid-high heat and drizzle it with olive oil, then add thyme and garlic
Add the mushroom stems and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side
Remove when they turn crispy and light brown
Vegan scallops can be served with spring greens, resulting in a delicious main course. This is a perfect alternative since it is easy to prepare, healthy, gluten-free, and most importantly, vegan-friendly. Although the vegan scallops do not taste exactly like the real ones, the look and texture are similar. They taste like abalone, which is a rare species of mollusc.
Consumption of any kind of animal dismisses one from being a vegan. Some people have a personal attachment to the title vegan; therefore, it’s kind not to taint it. If you are a conflicted vegan, it’s safer to stay away from what you are not sure of. To conclude, vegans can decide what to eat and what to avoid, but be sure to drop the title once you consume any animal.