Sunday, September 27, 2015

Anti-Fat Shaming Mega Meme Post!

We, at VFR, don't intend to claim certain people are healthy while others are not. It's not our place, particularly because we're not doctors nor do we have access to anyone else's medical records. 

What we do hope to do is get vegans to realize that you can't judge someone's health based on how they look. We attempt to do this through the use of scientific studies.  

Overweight/fat shaming in the vegan movement runs rampant, and it is unacceptable. As the meme above states, compassion and speaking up for non-human animals has nothing to do with someone's weight. Veganism isn't a diet or a weight loss tool. It's an ethical stance exemplified by a lifestyle of compassion.

Vegans come in all shapes and sizes. 

We are ALL amazing examples of our movement. 

Please use these memes (along with the cited studies) as tools to stand up against fat-shaming in the vegan movement. 



About the study: The take away message from the lead author of the cited study, Dr. Ruth Loos: "In simple terms, it is not only overweight individuals who can be predisposed for these metabolic diseases, and lean individuals shouldn't make assumptions that they are healthy based on their appearance. "

Director of the MRC Epidemiology Unit, Professor Nick Wareham, said:

"The research will provide new insights into why not all lean people are healthy and, conversely, why not all overweight people are at risk of metabolic diseases."

Dr. Kiel, a senior scientist at the Institute for Aging Research and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, USA, who was also involved in this study, said:

"We've uncovered a truly fascinating genetic story and, when we found the effect of this gene, we were very intrigued by the unexpected finding. People, particularly men, with a specific form of the gene are both more likely to have lower percent body fat, but also to develop heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In simple terms, it is not only overweight individuals who can be predisposed for these metabolic diseases."


About the study: This study outlines the genetic evidence for normal-weight “metabolically obese” phenotypes, which leads to the predisposition of diseases in normal weight individuals even though these diseases are usually thought of as being diseases only found in obese individuals.

Take away point: You can't tell what someone's health is simply by looking at their weight.




About the study: "The most important result from our study is that overweight and obese patients with ACSs had lower mortality rate compared with patients with normal BMI....This large observational study with prospectively collected data strengthens the existing evidence and increases the awareness of obesity paradox."

And to quote a vegan registered dietician:

Here's a post by The Vegan RD on how body shaming fails vegan advocacy:

In conclusion:

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Soy Safety

The science is in. Soy is safe to eat. These are just a few examples because, well, I can only fit so much science into one meme ;)

Potter SM et al., 1998. Soy protein and isoflavones: their effects on blood lipids and bone density in postmenopausal women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 68 (suppl) 1375S–1379S.

Taku K et al., 2012. Extracted or synthesized soybean isoflavones reduce menopausal hot flash frequency and severity: systematic review and metaanalysis of randomized controlled trials. Menopause. 19(7): 776-790.

Trock BJ et al., 2006. Meta-analysis of soy intake and breast cancer risk. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. 98(7): 459-471.

Mannu GS et al., 2013. Evidence of lifestyle modification in the management of hypercholesterolemia. Current Cardiology Reviews. 9(1): 2-14.

Cool Vegans Science

Hope you are enjoying your well as the memes and articles on the blog!

Again, suggestions are very welcome. Know of a good meme that will help a vegan out? Then reach out :D

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Carrageenan Again!

The Food & Agricultural Organization AND The World Health Organization have categorized carrageenan under the best category for any food additive, so once and for all, my dear vegans, carrageenan is SAFE. That includes the one in your plant milk. 

Read their review of countless studies and their final verdict here: 

In addition, as of 2014, they concluded that carrageenan IS also SAFE for infant formula use. See here:

Sunday, September 6, 2015

On Not Eating Oysters: Part III

I decided to write a post specifically about oysters because I primarily focused on mussels, sea urchins, and bivalves in general on my previous two posts,  Part I and Part II

I, again, try to make the case against vegans eating oysters based on scientific literature and further examine the idea that simple nervous systems and differences in body plans are not synonymous with not being able to react and experience the world. I directly quote the studies and other literature so that what I write is completely transparent and not made up or based on ideology.

Unlike plants, but like most other invertebrates, oysters do have nervous systems. As we established in Part I and Part II, how developed those systems are does not automatically reduce them to the level of plants. In addition, as further discussed in Part I and Part II, because they have simple nervous systems does not mean that one can deduce that they are unable to respond to stimuli or have the inability to experience their own environment, particularly because we are incapable of truly understanding what pain and sentience are in other animals. 

Just to mention the nervous system briefly, Carroll & Catapane (2007) state that, "Bivalve molluscs [this includes oysters] have a relatively simple bilaterally symmetrical nervous system composed of paired cerebral, visceral and pedal ganglia, and several pairs of nerves. The cerebral ganglia (CG) are connected to the visceral ganglia (VG) by a paired cerebrovisceral connective and the VG innervate each gill via branchial nerves."

Unfortunately, based on my review of the available data, there aren't that many studies focused on oysters. And those that exist seem to have an interest in human application or farming.  As of this date, I could not find a specific paper devoted to the examination of nociception in oysters per se. However, that is not conclusive proof that nociception does not exist in oysters. 

Here's why:

"The full length cDNA of a homologue of δ-opioid receptor (DOR) for [Met(5)]-enkaphalin was cloned from oyster Crassostrea gigas" by Liu et al (2015). These results, as outlined by Liu et al. (2015),  "collectively suggested that CgDOR for [Met(5)]-enkephalin could modulate the haemocyte phagocytic and antibacterial functions through the second messengers Ca(2+) and cAMP, which might be requisite for pathogen elimination and homeostasis maintenance in oyster." Varga et al. (2004) describe, "delta opioid receptor (DOR) agonists are attractive potential analgesics, since these compounds exhibit strong antinociceptive activity..." 

In addition, mu opioid receptors have been found in both blue mussels (Mantione et al. 2010) and oysters (Zhang 2012); these receptors are also antinociceptors. 

Opioid peptides have also been documented in oysters. Liu, Chen, & Xu's (2008) described that, "The nervous and immune systems of invertebrates can exchange information through neuropeptides. Furthermore, some opioid peptides can function as endogenous immune system messengers and participate in the regulation of the immune responses." Their study concluded that their "data strongly suggests an involvement of opioid peptides in the regulation of the antioxidant defence systems of the Pacific Oyster." Endogenous opioid peptides have been described as inducing, "analgesia in humans and antinociception in animals. These peptides act in several regions of the CNS to mediate pain control, because antinociception is observed in animals whether endogenous opioid peptides are administered into the peripheral circulation; into spinal sites; or into various regions of the brain, such as the raphe nuclei, PAG region, or medial preoptic area. Many events or stimuli that are experienced as painful, stressful, or traumatic can induce the release of endogenous opioid peptides. These peptides then act to make humans and animals less sensitive to noxious events by inducing euphoria and analgesia or antinociception (Froehlich 1997)." 

Why would oyters have any of these receptors or mechanism for antinociceptive activity? If they have antinociceptors, does that mean that they could have noticeptors as well?  Regardless, it has been established above that opioid receptors have been found in oysters (topic further discussed in Part I), and opiate systems may have a functional role in invertebrate nociception" (Fiorito, 1986; Kavaliers, 1988). 

In addition...

The following studies further show that oysters, although thought of as simplistic as plants by many, have nervous systems that are still complex and may use many of the same responses and regulations as other animal species.

 Harrison et al. (2008) found that their study confirmed and quantified, "histamine as an endogenous biogenic amine in C. virginica in the nervous system and innervated organs...Histamine is a biogenic amine found in a wide variety of invertebrates, where it has been found to be involved in local immune responses as well as regulating physiological function in the gut. It also functions as a neurotransmitter, especially for sensory systems. Histamine has been well studied in arthropods and gastropods, but has been rarely reported to be present or have a function in bivalves other than the limited reports identifying it in ganglia and nerve fibers of the Baltic clam." The authors further stated that, "Bivalves, including the oyster, Crassostrea virginica, contain dopamine, serotonin and other biogenic amines in their nervous system and peripheral tissues. These biogenic amines serve as neurotransmitters and neurohormones and are important in the physiological functioning of the animal." They also stated that,"The mantle rim of bivalves is a sensory structure containing various sensory receptors. The involvement of histamine in sensory systems of invertebrates, particularly gastropods, coupled with our preliminary physiology research, strongly suggest histamine to be a sensory neurotransmitter in the mantle rim of C. virginica."

In addition, Park et al. (2007) were able to clone and characterize, "Lipopolysaccharide-induced TNF-alpha factor (LITAF) is an important transcription factor that mediates the expression of inflammatory cytokines" in the Pacific oyster Crassostrea gigas." Interestingly, Zhang & An (2007) describe that, "there is significant evidence showing that certain cytokines/chemokines are involved in not only the initiation but also the persistence of pathologic pain by directly activating nociceptive sensory neurons.

Like in mussels, it has been shown that oysters control the beating of their cilia to draw in water, which they do as filter-feeders. Carroll & Catapane's (2007) study demonstrated that there is a "reciprocal serotonergic-dopaminergic innervation of the lateral ciliated cells, similar to that of M. edulis, originating in the cerebral and visceral ganglia of the animal..." This, therefore, means that ganglia (their nervous system) regulates movement/behavior. Perhaps, like in mussels (see Part I), oysters also have the ability to actively control, based on a form of decision-making, why they employ the types of ciliary movements they do.

On Predation...

"Bivalves readily utilize chemical exudates that ema nate from predators and from injured conspecifics to evaluate predation risk (Caro & Castilla 2004, Cheung et al. 2004, Smee & Weissburg 2006b) (Robinson et al. (2014). A study by Robinson et al. (2014) found that in the presence of predators, "oysters grew shells that required more force to crush and resultantly were afforded greater protection from crab predators." This supports recent studies that "have shown that oysters react to gastropod and crustacean predators by producing thicker, heavier shells (Newell et al. 2007, Johnson & Smee 2012, Lord & Whitlatch 2012)"(Robinson 2014).  Again, these are examples that oysters actively respond to their environment (predation in this case) as any other animal species would when threatened. 

The studies that I've quoted above are only bits and pieces of a large body of data that is yet to be uncovered or even studied. What all this means when put together is yet unknown because few studies have been done. However, it shows that although oysters have simple, yet efficient nervous system to respond to the type of lifestyle that they live,  they also have sensory structures and receptors like those found in other animal species. In essence, they are still nothing like plants regardless if they are sessile species (Review Part I and Part II). The fact that they are sessile still does not mean that they do not need to react to their environment if simply to protect themselves and carry out functions in order to survive. 

Pain in Invertebrates

It is important to note that, "the clear distinction that once existed between the terms “pain” and “nociception” has become blurred recently, to the point that many neuroscientists and clinicians no longer make a distinction; that is, most accept that nociception is equivalent to pain." (Sladky 2014)

In his essay examining pain and analgesia in fish and invertebrates, Dr. Sladky, from the University of Wisconsin, asks, "can we recognise pain in fish and invertebrates? Is the perception of pain by a fish or an invertebrate equivalent to that of a mammal? We will never be able to fully and objectively answer these questions, because the animals simply cannot tell us...Could it be that recognition of pain in fish and invertebrates is impeded by our inability to empathise with species that do not convey distress through facial expressions, do not vocalise in response to distress, and are not warm and fuzzy?"

Dr. Sladky states that "our limited understanding of pain and analgesia in fish and invertebrates should not obscure our clinical decisions, and we should err on the side of fish and invertebrate well-being by making the assumption that conditions considered painful in humans and other mammals should be assumed to be potentially painful across all other vertebrate and invertebrate species."

"Although peripheral nociceptors have not been identified in cephalopods, there are no published reports that anyone has investigated peripheral nociception in cephalopods. On the other hand, nociceptors have been identified in anemones, sea cucumbers, leeches, nematodes, Drosophila, and many other insects (Kavaliers 1988; Tobin & Bargmann 2004; Xu, et al. 2006; Smith & Lewin 2009; Puri & Faulkes 2010)...Many invertebrate species (earthworms, roundworms, molluscs, Drosophila) possess endogenous opioid receptors (Dalton & Widdowson 1989; Tobin & Bargmann 2004). Immunohistochemical staining indicated the presence of endogenous opioid receptors in nematodes (Prior et al. 2007). Mussels possess benzodiazepine and opioid receptors in their nervous systems (Gagne et al. 2010). In addition, there is genetic and physiologic evidence that invertebrates and vertebrates may have similar capacities with respect to pain and analgesia..." (Sladky  2014)

"Pain-associated behaviour of invertebrates has been described in multiple species. In sea anemones, crabs, crayfish, sea slugs, snails, flatworms, crickets, praying mantis and Drosophila, withdrawal responses are observed with thermal and mechanical noxious stimuli..."(Sladky 2014). 

The paper by Dr. Sladky is definitely worth the read because it is a nice summary of all the discoveries that have been made about fish and invertebrates with relation to pain. Read it here:

In essence...

Albeit slowly, science has shown us that invertebrate species are not as simple as we once thought. So I ask, what basis is there for not erring on the side that potentially oysters, and other invertebrates, that have yet to be studied in detail, also have the ability for these mechanisms and behaviors?

Environmental Impacts of Oyster Farming

Refer to Part II for a look at the negative effects associated with oyster farming.


The author of this post has a B.S. in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Marine Science and a M.Sc. in Conservation & Ecology with an emphasis in research. Other experiences include, but are not limited to, aquaculture, molecular biology, fungal and plant symbiosis, and invasive species ecology. The author is also vegan, which means the author does not consume or consciously exploits any species of animal. 


Carroll & Catapane (2007) The Nervous System Control of Lateral 
Ciliary Activity of the Gill of the Bivalve Mollusc, Crassostrea 
virginica, Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol, 148(2): 445–450.

Froehlich (1997) Opioid Peptides,Neurotransmitter review, Vol. 21, 2.

Harrison et al. (2015), The Presence of Histamine and a Histamine Receptor in the Bivalve Mollusc, Crassostrea virginica, In Vivo, 36(3): 123–130.

Liu et al. (2008), Effects of Leucine-enkephalin on Catalase Activity and Hydrogen Peroxide Levels in the Haemolymph of the Pacific Oyster (Crassostrea gigas), Molecules.

Liu et al. (2015),  The immunomodulation mediated by a delta-opioid receptor for [Met(5)]-enkephalin in oyster Crassostrea gigas. Dev Comp Immunol. 2015 Apr;49(2):217-24. 
Mantione et al. (2010), Seasonal variations in mu opiate receptor 
signaling in the nervous system of the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis: 
temperature controls physiological processes,  ISJ 7: 141-145.

Park et al. (2008), Cloning, characterization and expression analysis 
of the gene for a putative lipopolysaccharide-induced TNF-alpha factor 
of the Pacific oyster, Crassostrea gigas. Fish Shellfish Immunol. 2008 Jan;24(1):11-7. 

Robinson et al. (2014), Eastern oysters Crassostrea virginica deter crab
 predators by altering their morphology in response to crab cues, Aquatic 
Biology, Vol. 20: 111–118.

Sladky (2014),“I’ll have the fish and shrimps”: pain and analgesia in 
invertebrates and fish,

Varga et al. (2004), Agonist-specific regulation of the δ-opioid receptor, Life Sciences, Vol. 76, Issue 6, Pages 599–612.

Zhang & An (2007), Cytokines, Inflammation and Pain, Int Anesthesiol Clin.;
 45(2): 27–37.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Mercola is Anti-Vegan

Here are at least 8 times where has written against and/or misrepresented vegetarianism, vegans, and/or veganism. They seem to rely on ex-vegans and ex-vegetarians that tried it out in the 1980s for their erroneous statements. 

Stop believing everything they post, and stop using them as a reliable source of information. Many of the claims they write in their articles are based on pseudoscience and misinterpretation of data. 

I'm listing some of the articles as proof (I didn't look for more because I don't think there's sense), but they mostly contradict ADA's statement and in depth review that determined vegan diets are safe: 

Anti-vegan articles and a report by Mercola: (contradicts the latest research on vegan pregnancy safety and the ADA) (sulfur deficiency claim based on a very small study of males in Chad, which is not representative at all) (sneakily claims he doesn't not support plant diets, but then makes a statements that alludes that you can only get most of your nutrients from meat). (claims eating meat is healthier because of sulfur again - a deficiency that just isn't an issue)

AND a FULL report against vegetarian/vegan diets:

In conclusion, say NO to Mercola. Stop spreading wrong information from a website that doesn't even support your lifestyle choice.

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Your skin + respiratory system + immune system + intestines + liver + kidneys = a powerful detox system of your own that actually works. And it's free. 

There is zero scientific evidence supporting detox diets, cleanses, or products.

Unless you are dealing with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, "detox" in the sense of cleanses and products doesn't make any sense. Here's why: and

Types of detoxes and why they actually don't make any sense or work -

Detox diets: 

Coffee enemas:

Vitamin Injections:

Colonic irrigation:

Detox Foot Baths:

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Vegans & Protein!

The American Dietetic Association, the British Dietetic Association, and the Dietetic Association of Australia have all published statements in support of vegan diets. Vegans can get enough protein from their diets, and protein sources such as tofu, seitan, and quinoa are complete proteins with all essential amino acids. 

Read the publications here...




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Critically Thinking Vegan!

I hate seeing non-vegans using this girl's photo to mock veganism, so voila!  

Being vegan doesn't mean critical thinking goes out the window, right? :)

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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Animalists: Those Pesky Omnivores!

This is Part II on The Case for Eating  Oysters, Mussels, and Other Invertebrates? NOPE, Here's Some Science. 

Edit: Part III is now available: On NOT Eating Oysters

The Sentientist shared a new blog post on her public Facebook profile (I'm not on her friends list and was directed to her page by another fellow vegan),  written by someone that calls himself  The Animalist, and described it as, "A round up of evidence for and against eating bivalves linking to my sentientist blogs." Excuse me, but I just want to ask,  What evidence? Opinions based on personal beliefs do not count as reliable evidence. Neither do wikipedia links or citing links to other blogs, but that's just the scientist in me, I guess?

On reading this "evidence"...

I have to admit that, as a scientist and someone that holds established and reliable sources as the best means to support an argument, I found the Animalist's post in support of eating invertebrates all over the place and mostly opinion-based without much reliable scientific evidence to back most statements. Hence, most of his points are based on opinions that are based on the convenience that we will most likely never be able to prove that invertebrates, such as bivalves and echinoderms, do not experience life in the same way that vertebrates do.

I am very much confused by his stance on what he labels himself. The Animalist claims to not want to be vegan but is OK in being labelled a vegetarian, yet refuses to accept that he is actually an omnivore. Remember in biology class when we learned that if an animal eats plants and other animals, then they are omnivores? Me too, but somehow he ignores that basic, established fact.

Image: Excerpt from the Animalist's Blog Post "Those Pesky Bivalves."

The other thing that baffles my mind is this closing statement at the bottom of this image (we'll go back to vertebrates in a moment):

Image: Excerpt from the Animalist's Blog Post "Those Pesky Bivalves."

The Animalist refuses to use concrete evidence and examples based on science, research, etc. in his claims that invertebrates are not sentient, yet he demands that if you disagree with his opinion-based stance, that you provide him with "concrete examples and evidence". Kind of not an even playing field, is it? This also means that whatever anyone says won't be enough even if it based on scientific literature.

Regardless, with this post, I attempt to show how unscientific the Animalist's case is. In support, I describe in agreement on why he is NOT a pescatarian or even a vegetarian because, as someone that eats animals, he is an omnivore. 

If you would like a scientific view on why there isn't an ethical case in eating mussels, oysters, and other bivalves as vegans, please refer to Part I, HERE, which discusses the Sentientist's blog posts on eating bivalves. 

In the same post, I establish why it doesn't make sense to attempt to apply the same definition of sentience to invertebrate species based on a world-view defined by human sentience. 

I also establish that bivalves are not synonymous to plants.

Statements are fully supported by scientific evidence and literature. 

 NOTE: As with my first article, I will directly quote reliable scientific literature and direct quotes from experts in the corresponding fields just so you know I'm not just making things up...

Image: Excerpt from the Animalist's Blog Post "Those Pesky Bivalves."

Invertebrates & the Animal Kingdom

 How do I know mollusks and echinoderms are animals and not plants? Because they have been classified under the Animal Kingdom.  In current times, classification of living beings is based on morphology and molecular data, which are used to establish evolutionary relationships between them. Let's have a look:


Again, both echinoderms and bivalves are clearly under the Animal Kingdom as determined by experts that study the evolutionary relationships of living beings. Plants, however, are not in the animal kingdom. 


The Definition of Omnivore

                                      Image: Excerpt from the Animalist's Blog Post "Those Pesky Bivalves."

Omnivores are defined as animals (like humans) that eat plants and other animals (like bivalves and echinoderms).

Vegans do not eat, use, or wear animals. Vegetarians do not eat animals but may eat and use animal products, such as eggs and dairy, leather, etc.; however, animals are not animal products, they are the actual animals. Pescatarians eat fish, but invertebrates aren't fish. Fish are vertebrates, and they are animals. Therefore, pescatarians are just omnivores that prefer fish. Someone that consumes invertebrates, which are well established as animals, then simply, still eats animals, and is therefore, an omnivore - like the Animalist. 

Back to the animal kingdom for a second...

What does the Animalist mean when mussels, oysters, clams, or sea urchins are not comparable to fish? They are clearly both animals for a reason, or does he mean that one is an invertebrate and the other one is a vertebrate, and therefore, have completely different physiologies? How does he determine that all those species are sentient? Where is the evidence? What basis does he use?

And WHO is everyone that has looked into this? Where is the research and the literature to back this claim?

                                              Image: Excerpt from the Animalist's Blog Post "Those Pesky Bivalves."

The Animalist would like us to accept that because they don't have, eyes, brains/nervous systems like the ones humans and other animal species have, sea urchins (and bivalves) are just like plants. Except, sea urchins are nothing like plants, they are animals with nervous systems. Plants are not animals and do not have any kind of nervous system. 

Image: Excerpt from the Animalist's Blog Post "Those Pesky Bivalves."

Note: I'm going to skip on the explanation that animals are not plants because I hope that we all realize by now that plants are in the plant kingdom and animals are in the animal kingdom. You can look more into that topic in Part I.

Sea Urchins & Brains

Although I am unsure how the Animalist determines which species are "sentient" or not since I'm not aware of any crab or shrimp that has a central nervous system or a brain, as in humans, I'd like to show you the story that science has to tell us about sea urchins...

When it comes to sea urchins, no they do not have eyes in the sense that we and other animals have eyes, but "it looks like the entire surface of their bodies are acting as one big eye..." said researcher Sönke Johnsen, a marine biologist at Duke University."  Johnsen is further quoted by the same article saying, "We think of animals that have a head with centralized nervous systems and all their sense organs on top as being the ones capable of sophisticated behavior, but we're finding more and more some animals can do pretty complex behaviors using a completely different style." (Choi 2009)

Blevins & Johnsen (2010) state that their research study is the "first demonstration of spatial vision in an echinoderm sheds further light on the complex optical structures and photobehaviors found in this phylum."

What was that again about no eyes, Animalist?

"It appears that sea urchins may use the whole surface of their bodies as a compound eye, and the animals' spines may shield their bodies from light coming from wide angles to enable them to pick out relatively fine visual detail....Some of the animals may interpret the object as a predator and flee, while others identify it as shelter and head towards it. What is more surprising is that the urchins' vision is as good as Nautilus and horseshoe crab vision, which is quite impressive for an echinoid that has turned its whole body into an eye." (Knight 2010) 

And on the claim that they "do not have centralized nervous systems" as basis for the Animalist to decide it's ok to eat them, the fact remains that sea urchins and ALL echinoderms, HAVE nervous systems:

Johnsen stated that, "Although sea urchins don't have brains, "it could be their entire nervous system more or less acts as a brain," Johnsen said. "In our case, we vertebrates have nervous systems that are more or less controlled by a central brain, but sea urchins have a pretty diffuse nerve net, where no region looks like a central processing unit as far as we can tell." (Choi 2009)

"The adult echinoid nervous system is comprised of 5 radial nerve cords, which are joined at their base by commissures that form a ring surrounding the mouth (Cobb, 1970Cavey and Markel, 1994)... Tube feet, spines and pedicellariae have ganglia and a complement of sensory and motor neurons...The arrangement of the nervous system in echinoderms is a feature that distinguishes them from other deuterostomes (chordates and hemichordates). Echinoderm nervous systems are dispersed, but they are not a simple nerve net. The adult is not cephalized, yet the radial nerves are segmentally organized (Burke et al 2006)."

Johnsen also states that, "We think of animals that have a head with centralized nervous systems and all their sense organs on top as being the ones capable of sophisticated behavior, but we're finding more and more some animals can do pretty complex behaviors using a completely different style...In the beginning, people built robots like they would humans, with powerful central processing units, complex sensors and fairly complex rules for doing things...Now they're finding it might be a lot better with a distributed system with many little processors and simpler sensors and simple rules, which end up creating fairly complicated behaviors as emergent properties, just as how a flock of birds can make intricate patterns without any one bird choosing these patterns." (Choi 2009)

So basically, not having a nervous system with a brain does not mean you are a living plant-like rock creature incapable of experiencing the world...plants don't have nervous systems. Echinoderms (and Bivalves) DO HAVE nervous systems regardless of how simple you believe they are. 

As I quoted on Part I

On the Environmental Aspects

The issue that I have with using Wikipedia as the sole evidence for a claim is that Wikipedia articles, such as the one linked on the Animalist's post, do not always cite reliable evidence, reliable sources, scientific research, or official publications. They can also be very one sided if written by someone with a specific interest, or they can just be outdated.

                                           Image: Excerpt from the Animalist's Blog Post "Those Pesky Bivalves."

I do have to make a clarification that the article quoted on the Animalist's blog post above makes reference to eating these sea urchins because they are aggressive invasive species outcompeting local species of sea urchins in a region they once were not found in. However, I find making the case of eating sea urchins because they are invasives is a stepping stone to making the case to kill other invasive animal species, such as lion fish, which have become an ecological nightmare in parts of the United States.  

Regardless, intensive oyster farming is NOT free of negative impacts as the Animalist claims. 

It is unclear where the Animalist gets the scientific data to claim that not a single "sentient" being is harmed or killed during oyster and mussel farming since the oysters and mussels have not been established to be non-sentient and are, well, killed (see Part I). Either way, intensive farming of these animals does have negative impacts, which affect other species.

A review of the ecological effects of oyster aquaculture in New Zealand, which was commissioned by the Northland Regional Council (Forrest, Elmetri, Clark (2007)) found that their: 

"review indicates that, other than a field investigation of seabed impacts in Mahurangi Harbour, little is known about the actual effects of oyster farming in New Zealand....Although the general effects of oyster farming are known, and their ecological significance can be evaluated, it is evident from our assessment that there are many knowledge gaps and areas of uncertainty."

Collectively, these sources of information reveal key areas of actual or potential risk from intertidal oyster cultivation as:

 Image: Page iii  excerpt from the " Review of the Ecological Effects of Intertidal Oyster Aquaculture in New Zealand"

I'm not going to go through each issue because I am only trying to point out that one cannot make claims that oyster farming or any other kind of farming does not have any kind of impact. 

What would farming these animals look like for 7 billion people - hand harvesting oysters for 7 billion people? Not likely. How would that affect the ecology? Lastly, it would be naive to think that the same types of farming systems would apply world-wide since marine environments and animal species vary depending on the region. 

As for mussel farming, please review the potential negative effects, which includes a research study as reliable literature, briefly discussed in Part I

Although, to supplement my previous argument, a Sweden-based study by Carlsson et al. (2012) found that, "the establishment of the Lysekil mussel farms increased the local sedimentation rates and affected underlying sediment by consistently increasing benthic oxygen demand and nutrient release...the continuous loading of mussel biodeposits gradually in creases the demand for oxygen to reoxidize reduced compounds, leading to oxygen depletion and stimulating the production of supports the correlation between elevated TOU [oxygen uptake], SRRs [sulfate reduction rate] and nutrient release, and negative effects on benthic RPD [redox potential discontinuity (RPD) layer indicates the depth of oxidized sediment] and BQI [benthic quality index]. (Hargrave et al. 2008). " I fail to see how anyone can claim no animal is harmed or killed with events, such as oxygen depletion in bethic zones. 

Image: Excerpt from the Animalist's Blog Post "Those Pesky Bivalves."

Lastly, I will say that these are just a few examples. I do not want to get too deep into the environmental impacts of farming/aquaculture because I do not believe that has any relevance in making a case of eating an animal species or not as it relates to veganism. 

In Conclusion

The Animalist excludes certain animal species from his "activism against speciesism" by applying unsupported ideologies of sentience to animal species that are NOT humans or even vertebrates because their nervous systems are set up different to our own - all based on zero evidence. He also fails to make a case for the claim that bivalve farming is free from "killing or harming or depriving one single sentient being" or any "sentient casualty".

The Animalist also makes it clear that he and the others mentioned below support an omnivorous diet for themselves since, as the scientific community has established, bivalves and ALL invertebrates are animals. Vegans, do not eat animals, and once again, invertebrates are all animals.

Image: Excerpt from the Animalist's Blog Post "Those Pesky Bivalves."

Note to the Animalist & Sentientist:

It's not personal, so I hope there will be no hard feelings. I went into science for the biodiversity, and I stayed because of ecology. I just want to prevent the dissemination of inaccurate scientific information, particularly when it is being used as the basis to exploit a species of animal.


The author of this post has a B.S. in Biological Sciences with an emphasis in Marine Science and a M.Sc. in Conservation & Ecology with an emphasis in research. Other experiences include, but are not limited to, aquaculture, molecular biology, fungal and plant symbiosis, and invasive species ecology. The author is also vegan, which means the author does not consume or consciously exploits any species of animal. 


Blevins & Johnsen (2010), Spatial vision in the echinoid genus Echinometra,  J Exp Biol 2074249-4253.

Burke R et al. (2006), A Genomic View of the Sea Urchin Nervous System.  Developmental biology; 300(1):434-460.

Carlsson et al. (2012), Effects of mussel farms on the benthic nitrogen cycle on the Swedish west coast, Aquacult Environ Interact, Vol. 2: 177–191.

Forrest, Elmetri, & Clark (2007), Review of the Ecological Effects of Intertidal Oyster Aquaculture. Prepared for Northland Regional Council. Cawthron Report No. 1275, 25p.

Knight (2010), Sea Urchins Use Whole Body As Eye, J Exp Biol 213i-ii.

Smith (1991), A Question of Pain in Invertebrates, ILAR J, 33 (1-2): 25-31.