If you are new to veganism or interested in becoming vegan the questions you may have are more or less endless. Our Is It Vegan? section covers a huge array of topics and we are very much of the opinion that there is no such thing as a silly question.
As such, in this article we will answer the question, are mussels and clams are vegan? The short answer being: no, they are absolutely not vegan.
Mussels & Clams Are Both Animals
You don’t have to read far because this is one of the simpler queries we have dealt with: both mussels and clams are animals and therefore neither are vegan friendly. Looking at this issue at its most basic level, that really is all that there is to it. The Vegan Society talk about excluding the use of “animals for food” and the Cambridge English Dictionary defines a vegan as “a person who does not eat or use any animal products”.
There isn’t a biologist or zoologist who would describe a mussel or a clam as anything other than an animal. The official taxonomy for these marine animals shows that they are both:
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Mollusc
- Class: Bivalvia
Quite simply, both clams and mussels are part of the animal kingdom and are animals. We have looked at whether oysters are vegan (and pearls too for that matter!) and like mussels and clams they are also bivalve molluscs. In other words, they are also animals, and therefore are not suitable for eating, or in the case of pearls use, by vegans.
Why the Confusion?
People seem relatively clear and comfortable with the fact that vegans can’t and don’t eat fish (if you are a vegan, check out our feature on great vegan fish & chips) but for some reason when it comes to seafood, such as oysters, mussels and clams, the waters seem a little murkier.
We suspect this is in some ways an extension of the logic that some vegetarians, more accurately pescetarians, apply to their decision to eat fish. Fish are typically smaller than many animals that omnivores eat, are usually deemed to be less capable of suffering and somehow just “less”, and so some vegetarians believe they can be eaten… but that other animals should not be. It is easy to see how a similar argument can be made for molluscs which are in turn smaller and seemingly less sentient than fish.
There are some almost-vegans who argue that such seafood is also crucial to vegan nutrition. Whilst these bivalves are highly nutritious, as we have said many times, a well-planned plant-based diet can easily provide all the vegan protein, Omega-3 and other key nutrients needed for great health. There is no health-based argument for vegans to eat these creatures but let us look a little more closely at the ethical angle.
Can Mussels & Clams Feel Pain?
This is a question we have considered in the various related articles we have already referenced so we won’t go into much depth here. In short, there are some who argue that in terms of their ability to experience pain and suffering, and their degree of sentience and consciousness, they are more akin to plants than animals.
At present, the science is far from conclusive but there is certainly more than enough doubt to convince almost all vegans that these animals are off the menu, literally and figuratively. Our understanding of them could grow in coming years and we might have a better idea about their level of sentience. Whilst their nervous system is different to our own and those of many other animals, that isn’t to say it is incapable of experiencing pain.
Of course though, even this logic ignores the undeniable fact that mussels, clams (and oysters and other shellfish) are animals. It is a cornerstone of the vegan creed that animals are not food and therefore we say it once again, these creatures are not vegan friendly.