HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Discussion

Do (ovo-lacto) vegetarians eat stone crabs or sea cucumbers?

LOCKED DISCUSSION

If you are not a vegan and are more of a ovo-lacto vegetarian (i.e. one who eats eggs and diary) is there any principled reason not to eat stone crabs, or sea cucumbers?

How are stone crabs and sea cucumbers fundamentally different than say eating an egg, or the milk of a cow?

If you are a ovo-lacto vegetarian and believe there is a difference, can you explain it to me?

  1. Everyone is different and defines things for themselves. But, I was a vegetarian for 10 years that ate eggs and dairy. My "cut off" (like Paul McCartney's) was that I didn't eat anything with a face.

    9 Replies
    1. re: sedimental

      Technically speaking, sea cucumbers do not have a "face".

      Eat?

      1. re: ipsedixit

        I wouldn't have. I think they are considered an animal, but more importantly, I think they are gross.

        1. re: sedimental

          but more importantly, I think they are gross.
          _______________

          Ok. Fair enough.

          Cheers!

          1. re: Veggo

            Well, I suppose they aren't gross to other sea cucumbers.

            1. re: sedimental

              Still, I don't think any sea cucumbers like to eat other sea cucumbers.

              1. re: Tripeler

                They would if they could, but they can't. And of the 42,000 predators in the sea, none eat sea cucumbers. They taste so bad they don't even have to hide.
                How they became an asian delicacy is ...curious.

                1. re: Veggo

                  "They would if they could, but they can't"

                  That's because they don't have a face :)

                  1. re: Veggo

                    Au contraire! Turtles loves them some sea cucumber. Crabs and lobsters eat 'em, too. They do have some interesting defense mechanisms, though. The Cuvierian tubules are part of the respiratory system, but can be expelled through the anus, entangling the predator. Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCxKFc...

                    1. re: alanbarnes

                      Usually I see them hiding in plain sight on barren sand flats when I'm transiting between structured reef colonies. There is no sport to capturing one. Pick it up, look it over, put it down.

      2. I'm an omnivore, but was an ovo-lacto vegetarian for a while. Here's $.02:

        A sea cucumber is an animal. It has to be killed for someone to eat it. So a "principled reason" for not eating sea cucumber would be that the vegetarian chooses not to participate in killing animals for food. That was easy.

        Stone crabs are a little trickier. The claw is harvested and the crab returned to the water. This is ethically closer to consuming milk - you take food from the animal but don't take its life. OTOH, an animal's milk is biologically intended to provide sustenance to another creature; its appendages - not so much. Ethically consistent arguments could be made on both sides, but the fact that you're eating meat would tip this one to non-vegetarian in my book.

        Just for fun, here's one that's even closer to the line: The Maasai bleed their cattle, then drink the blood mixed with milk. The animals survive. No meat is eaten. Vegetarian or no?

        7 Replies
        1. re: alanbarnes

          Lol. What if you knew the crab wanted you to eat its arm? Could a vegetarian eat their vegetable noms with a blood sauce made from a willing human "victim"? Assuming they don't also have a taboo against that.

          What if someone was going to have their leg amputated and want to donate to something stranger . . .

          ;)

          1. re: alanbarnes

            I think I'd say that a foodstuff that requires an act of violence against an animal even if it doesn't result in a death is not vegetarian. If someone cuts off your arm and eats it, is it cannibalism? Or what about shark's fin, when the shark is thrown back into the water and usually dies if not dead already?

            Definitely not vegan though.

            And I've plenty of friends who say they are vegetarian and will occasionally eat fish or venison. I'm a vegetarian myself, and when I see one of these people eating fish, I'll ask, "aren't you vegetarian?" and they usually answer yes and keep on eating.

            An egg, at least those laid by ducks and chickens, is laid by a hen nearly every day regardless of fertilization or prospect thereof. An unfertilized egg, left to it's own devices, will rot after a time. To eat it is closing that cycle. That says nothing about the huge animal welfare issues surrounding the egg industry, for which reason I do not consume eggs on a regular basis. But oh! To have my own hens again!

            Milk and honey do not require an act so violent as shearing off the claw of a crab, but require an act of man to remove from a cow's udder or a hive of bees. Both products are created for survival of the lineage: the cow's calf or bee's hive.

            The words used for these products is different than that used for vegetables: when doing a search for harvest, it showed up in reference to fields and orchards. You milk the cow, gather eggs and honey; I suppose one would either bleed or tap their cattle for blood. I'm not sure what to say about catching crabs and removing their claws before they're thrown back into the sea. Definitely not harvest.

            I don't eat animals and for the most part try not to consume foods associated with major human or animal rights issues, but make the occasional exception by eating a dubious egg while staying with my parents or having a little bit of cheese produced somewhere in a traditional fashion.

            1. re: AgentLapis

              >>"The words used for these products [milk and eggs, and presumably blood and meat] is different than that used for vegetables: when doing a search for harvest, it showed up in reference to fields and orchards. You milk the cow, gather eggs and honey; I suppose one would either bleed or tap their cattle for blood. I'm not sure what to say about catching crabs and removing their claws before they're thrown back into the sea. Definitely not harvest."<<

              Definitely not? Then we need to contact a whole bunch of people who write for a living and tell them they're doing it all wrong. Here are just a few examples:

              South Florida Sun, October 17, 2007: "Seven-month stone crab harvest begins." http://tinyurl.com/4n92egs

              Orlando Sentinel, October 15, 2010: "Florida’s stone crab harvest was worth close to $18 million last season." http://tinyurl.com/4ua5nea

              St. Petersburg Times, October 18, 1999: "Stone crab harvest gets off to slow start." http://tinyurl.com/4ojkfb3

              Naples News, October 3, 2009: "Everglades City blesses stone crab fleet as harvest set to begin." http://tinyurl.com/4r4kctw

              San Francisco Chronicle, August 1, 2010: "Honey harvest: From hive to table." tp://tinyurl.com/4rb87gn

              Washington Post, May 22, 2007: "Tupelo Honey Harvest Hurt by Drought." http://tinyurl.com/4q67zmd

              The Telegraph, September 2, 2008: "English honey harvest halved after catastrophic drop in bee numbers." http://tinyurl.com/4rs29qx

              Seasonal Chef, May 1996: "the eggs that Tropper and Tuomey harvest are, they contend, as different from regular eggs as diamonds are from rhinestones." http://tinyurl.com/4jh2t6j

              Seattle Times, April 11, 2008: "Salmon harvest to plummet this year." http://tinyurl.com/49oqezy

              Iowa City Gazette, June 9, 2010: "Iowa pheasant harvest at all-time low." http://tinyurl.com/4hz39hs

              Beef Magazine, December 1, 2005: "Low cattle numbers are pulling cattle-harvest numbers down, which pushes cattle prices upward." http://tinyurl.com/4f8nsyh

              Blue Springs Examiner, January 10, 2011: "Missouri firearms deer harvest tops 230,000." http://tinyurl.com/474qsgb

              I could go on, but you get the point.

            2. re: alanbarnes

              A sea cucumber is an animal. It has to be killed for someone to eat it. So a "principled reason" for not eating sea cucumber would be that the vegetarian chooses not to participate in killing animals for food. That was easy.

              _____________________________

              Not necessarily. There are aquafarms in Japan where sea cucumbers are harvested. They cut them in half, and then throw one half back into the water. It then regenerates and the cycle repeates itself, very much like stone crabs.

              Ok, maybe milk is biologically intended to provide sustenance to another creature (its own young, but not necessaily another animal, right?). But what about eggs? Certainly I don't think nature intended eggs to provide sustenance to another creature in the same way that milk is right?

              I think if you are ovo-lacto, then milk+blood would be copacetic, no?

              1. re: ipsedixit

                I was unaware of the aquaculture practices you mention. Here in California, they kill the animal when they take it. If the sea cucumber survives, the situation is directly analogous to the stone crab example.

                But just because the animal survives the removal of meat doesn't make it anything other than meat. It would be possible to amputate and cure a pig's leg, but no one would seriously consider the resulting ham "vegetarian." Stone crabs claws and sea cucumbers that are taken without killing the animal are a little more complicated, since regeneration takes place. I don't disagree that principled arguments can be made on both sides of the question, but I still come down on the side of "not vegetarian" - you're eating an animal's flesh.

                Eggs, on the other hand, are pretty clear-cut. I suppose one could argue that a fertilized egg is an incipient bird; I'll leave that one to the theologians. But the eggs you buy in the grocery store are unfertilized, and don't have the potential to become an chicken. So by eating eggs, you're not eating an animal.

                As for milk, I don't think the evolutionarily intended recipient matters. The cow (mare, yak, camel, etc.) is biologically designed to produce food. The fact that we take the food instead of letting a calf drink it doesn't make it anything other than vegetarian. (Although it does raise a separate set of interesting questions - what do you think happens to all those male dairy calves, anyway? If you drink milk, can you object to others eating veal?)

                Any time someone makes dietary choices based on ethical considerations, there are shades of gray. As noted above, some "vegetarians" make exceptions for things without faces - oysters, and, yes, sea cucumbers. But even veganism isn't enough for some Jains, who mask their faces to keep from inadvertently inhaling and killing bugs and microbes. Ultimately, we all have to parse those dilemmas for ourselves. And while it's fun and thought-provoking to ask questions about those decisions, it ultimately comes down to a question of personal choice.

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  And while it's fun and thought-provoking to ask questions about those decisions, it ultimately comes down to a question of personal choice.

                  ____________________________

                  Indeed. Thanks for the discussion, alanbarnes.

                2. re: ipsedixit

                  "I think if you are ovo-lacto, then milk+blood would be copacetic, no?"

                  Works for the Masai.

              2. Ipse: very interesting question. I am a l-o vegetarian (consume very little L and O when there is no choice basically).

                I didn't know about stone crabs people eat just the claw. Speaking for myself I would not eat it for two reasons: 1) it is a body part of the animal, and 2) when removing the claw, if done incorrectly, the crab's chances of survival are low. I think it is a little different from eating milk or eggs, because of 1). But others may disagree and I may change my thinking, though I am not going to eat them.

                Sea cucumbers are easy to reject, 1) it is classified as an animal 2) the whole animal is killed and eaten, and 3) by all accounts it tastes terrible. For reasons 1 and 2, it is fundamentally different from eating milk or eggs.

                There is a world of other delicious and less controversial plant based food to eat, I don't chase after these esoterica :)

                There is a dreadful short story by Orson Scott Card called "Kingsmeat" (yes, he's a great thought provoking writer and all, but his themes tend to be dismal and ugly and his writing gifts tend to exaggerate that). Set in a futuristic time, with herds of humans kept for their meat. None are killed, only some prized body parts are occasionally cut off in a painless way, for the superior species/race to eat. A terrible scene where a young lactating mother's breast is cut off, and slices are sizzling, milk flecked, in a pan, while she is recovering in the stable, and her infant is nuzzling and seeking nourishment and not finding any.
                It comes too uncomfortably close to many current livestock practices.......

                3 Replies
                1. re: Rasam

                  Sea cucumbers are easy to reject, 1) it is classified as an animal 2) the whole animal is killed and eaten, and 3) by all accounts it tastes terrible. For reasons 1 and 2, it is fundamentally different from eating milk or eggs
                  _______________

                  No, they are not -- at least not always. Sea cucumbers (like lots of tubers) can regenerate. There are farms where they harvest the cucumbers, cut them in half, throw one half back into the water, and let it grow and regenerate -- much like stone crabs.

                  RE: stone crabs. Florida has passed laws that regulate how stone crabs are harvested so that harm does not come to them. Just an FYI.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    People who eat vegan (of any kind) are often concerned about:

                    Health
                    Animal rights
                    Biodiversity conservation

                    Those concerned about conservation would not be eating wild sea cucumbers, which, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization are in imminent danger of being overharvested.

                    As for animal rights, here's the hard case. Sea cucumbers have no brains or distinctive sensory organs. They do, however, have tactile sensation. They can avoid negative stimuli. So how pain is felt when there is no brain is something I can't answer. There are nerves, but nothing for the nerves to send the pain signal to...

                    I guess true vegans are not going to be eating sea cucumbers.

                    1. re: Just Visiting

                      Of course vegans would not eat either sea cucumbers or stone crabs.

                      My question wasn't for vegans, but for ovo-lacto vegetarians.

                2. I found this line in Wikipedia, about stone crabs, disturbing..(.when the claws are removed)
                  "female Florida stone crab have more baby stone crabs since they are unable to fend off the advancements of the male crabs."

                  1. Would a vegetarian eat a venus fly trap? :}

                    Despite all of these labels defining vegetarians who eat eggs, do not eat eggs, eat dairy, does not eat dairy... for those fine. But if you eat a sea cucumber, fish, chicken or anything that lives and breathes... you are not a vegetarian. A fish is not a plant. And a sea cucumber is not a cucumber. (I personally cannot fathom how non-vegetarians can eat that. Have you seen its insides? :} )

                    17 Replies
                    1. re: NicoleFriedman

                      I personally cannot fathom how vegetarians can not eat honey.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        And I cannot fathom how a strict vegan functions in real life.

                        http://green.yahoo.com/blog/care2/169...

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I have tremendous admiration for their commitment and the effort they make to follow through on it. More power to 'em.

                            1. re: Veggo

                              You can always find other sweeteners. Problem is, many of them involve animal products, too. A strict vegan won't eat white sugar without first verifying that it was refined without the use of bone char. It's a tough row to hoe, no doubt.

                              1. re: alanbarnes

                                And honey seems so victimless. The bees in the orange groves here seem so content.
                                And now I hear about the silk thing. Next, should I give up my Sea Island cotton because I'm denying some boll weevil his dinner, and I should wear only polyester? I allready learned wool is out, but so are my leisure suits.
                                Can I be tarred and feathered for my comments? I guess not.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            My step son is a strict Vegan. He functions just fine. Food is not important, other things are. He is a professional athlete as well.

                            1. re: sedimental

                              I have nothing against vegans, and more power to your son for his convictions.

                              But my question is one of a general nature.

                              If vegans eschew eating animal, or animal by-products, then shouldn't the same thinking apply to using things made or derived in part with animal or animal by-products? Like plastic, electricity, rubber (for car tires), etc.

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                It does somewhat. Depends on why they are vegans I guess. My step son does not use products from animals, he wears cotton clothing, etc. He is really into it and checks labels. He would never buy a car with leather seats, etc. He doesn't look down on others that don't do as he does, but he feels better about his presence in the world the way he is. He does let others know that it is not that hard to choose something that does not directly harm a critter, if they ask, (but not in a guilty kind of way).I suppose you could be more extreme, but he is pretty extreme! He just tries to be as conscious as possible daily, but as we all know, there is only so much time to devote to principles. Sometimes you just need to eat, wash up, get dressed and get your ass to work.

                                1. re: sedimental

                                  He just tries to be as conscious as possible daily, but as we all know, there is only so much time to devote to principles. Sometimes you just need to eat, wash up, get dressed and get your ass to work.
                                  _____________________

                                  Well said, and you have one fine step-son there. Good on you (and your family).

                                  Cheers.

                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                  >>"If vegans eschew eating animal, or animal by-products, then shouldn't the same thinking apply to using things made or derived in part with animal or animal by-products?"<<

                                  Many vegans think so. A while back the guys from Rise Against (my favorite vegan hardcore punk band) worked with VANS to produce a line of shoes that used no animal products whatsoever. Right down to finding a rubber supplier for the soles who used plant-based stearic acid.

                                  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XN2FrU...

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    Vegans try to stay away from products that were directly taken or derived from animals (honey, silk, wool, leather, etc.).
                                    Many vegetarians would eat honey. Veggo: does that answer your question?

                                    Ipse: Vegans know they can't be perfect - it's not humanly possible to eliminate just about every form of animal product or by product from one's life, because of the kinds of examples you have given.
                                    Most vegans are aware of the contradictions / dilemmas, but do the best they can: avoid the most obvious / egregious, then hope for the best.

                                    The tone of this discussion is again slipping from a specific question to an overall "how wierd" attitude toward veg*ans that is common on this forum. It's one thing to ask questions, but another to say one "cannot fathom" someone else's ethical choices, as if it requires such an extreme mental stretch as to be impossible for an average thinker.
                                    Yet, if veg*ans turn the questions around - e.g. how can people openly discuss eating and enjoyiing endangered species (shark, whale), or environmentally disastrous food (CAFO meat; songbirds), then those questions are seen as too extreme.

                                    1. re: Rasam

                                      I had a response for you Rasam.... but shocker, it was deleted.

                                      I will summarize and say that I agree with your comment.

                                      1. re: Rasam

                                        As noted above, I have tremendous respect for those who have the courage of their convictions, and admire them for putting in the effort it takes to act accordingly. But if you've taken a position that's outside the mainstream - and being a veg*n in the US definitely counts - you're setting yourself up for disappointment if you expect everybody else to "get it."

                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                          You don't have to "get it". You just have to train yourself not to speak disdainfully / disrespectfully about a valid ethical position you know little about.
                                          That's not too much to ask - it's a must for any minority situation.
                                          Even though it is disappointing when people don't do that, it does not absolve us from asking for it (not just members of the group either).

                                          1. re: Rasam

                                            >>"You just have to train yourself not to speak disdainfully / disrespectfully about a valid ethical position you know little about."<<

                                            I don't. And I agree that everybody has a right to ask for mutual respect.

                                            But the magic word here is **mutual.** There are plenty of v*gans whose pronouncements spring from the assumption that any ethical position other than their own is invalid. Sure, if you believe that meat is murder, you're free to get in the faces of omnivores with that opinion. But don't expect them to treat you deferentially in return.

                                3. re: Veggo

                                  some vegetarians eat honey, some vegans do not. I remember a conversation with a vegan friend once about it, it has something to do with the treatment of the bees when they are kept, as opposed to wild honey.

                              2. starfish can also regenerate legs.

                                I think people could stop labelling themselves - if you don't eat something just keep quiet about it unless you are going for dinner to somebody and then you only need to say I don't eat such and such. Firstly labels are too broad and secondly your host only needs to know what you don't want.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: smartie

                                  I generally agree, but I think we've gotten to the point where labels are inevitable, even almost chic.

                                  And, w/r/t telling your host "what you don't want" ... imagine telling someone that I eat everything except things with a face?

                                  Or how about this Wedding RSVP card:

                                  ______________________

                                  Please select an entree:

                                  __ Beef
                                  __ Chicken
                                  __ Something without a face

                                  Please RSVP by January 1, 2050

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      lol
                                      I would eat the beef or the chicken as long as the face was not on my plate!

                                      1. re: smartie

                                        I know, right?

                                        Ipse...you seriously need to copyright that RSVP Wedding invitation.

                                  1. This kind of ranks up there with the person who asked me once whether I would eat roadkill on principle, because it died accidentally.

                                    Unless these things were part of a person's diet, I'm not sure why anyone would seek them out, after a transition to a vegetarian lifestyle. Unless a person eats a certain diet for medical reasons, I wouldn't imagine too many people who eat a vegetarian diet spend time trying to track down ways to get "around" the whole eating animals thing.

                                    Speaking personally, and as a person who will allow myself seafood a couple of times a year as a "treat" (and to make things easier when visiting family) , if I was going to make an exception outside my diet, it wouldn't be for an animal who has it's parts hacked off and left to go fend for itself, possibly in pain. That would be doing something to make ME feel better about not killing it, not in the interest of the animal imho.

                                    Then again, never had a conversation with a cow or chicken to ask them how they felt about it either.

                                    1. Discussion of vegan/vegetarian diets doesn't always go well, and we see this discussion heading in that direction, so we're going to lock this topic now.