Good Question: Is It Cruel to Throw Away Oysters?

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Dear Kitchen,

I bought some fresh oysters over the weekend and ended up buying more than we could eat. Now I need to throw away the extras.

Here's my dilemma: I realize that I didn't have any problem shucking and swallowing them alive, but is it cruel to just throw the extra oysters away and let them dry to death? Should I kill the oysters somehow before throwing them away?

Thanks,
Flavorpacket
Flavorpacket,

Thanks for your question. We're all trying to be concientious cooks here, so this is a great topics for us to research.

We've tried to approach your question by finding out if oysters feel pain.

We learned that there is not a conclusive answer to this question. Here's what Pete Singer, an "animal libertarian", wrote in 1990:

Oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and the like are mollusks, and mollusks are in general very simple organisms. . . . Accordingly, I continued occasionally to eat oysters, scallops, and mussels for some time after I became in every other respect, a vegetarian. But while one cannot with any confidence say that these creatures do feel pain, so one can equally have little confidence in saying that they do not feel pain. Moreover, if they do feel pain, a meal of oysters or mussels would inflict pain on a considerable number of creatures. Since it is so easy to avoid eating them, I now think it better to do so.

We're still searching for a more comprehensive answer for you. We forwarded your question on to the Pacific Coast Shellfish Growers Association and PETA this morning. (PETA -- sponsor of the recent Lobster Liberation campaign -- seems to be against exploiting oysters.) We'll post updates here when we hear from these experts.

Readers, we're hoping you can help Flavorpacket out here too. What do you think? Please post your suggestions in the comments.

Related Links
Granta: Do Fish Feel Pain?
ABC.net: "If hooks hurt fish, how do fresh oysters feel?"
Pink Rabbit Says: "Since it theoretically could feel pain, it's ethically safer to give it the benefit of the doubt."

From Our Archive
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(Photo: Mischiru)

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