Do oysters feel pain?

19 April 2009

Question

Do oysters feel pain?

Answer

Marine biologist Helen Scales took this on...

Helen - It's a great question and something that stirs up seafood lovers a lot. You've got your oyster there; you're shucking it away, adding a squeeze of lemon juice, and they say you should see the oyster twitching if you put lemon juice on it; this shows they can sense chemicals and they can sense things going on.

Do they feel pain? Great question. I think the answer has to be probably not, but we don't really know.

Oysters have a nervous system; they can respond. They have no brain as such; they have two ganglia - or masses of nerves - around their body, but not a central brain like ours.

I don't think anyone can possibly claim that oysters are conscious, that they have awareness like higher mammals (not just ourselves but other creatures like dolphins and things).

I certainly think there shouldn't be a big problem with oysters.

There's still debate going on about far more advanced creatures, like fish. Is it cruel to go fishing for fun? Do they feel pain? That's the sort of thing where the debate goes on.

Scientists have found a lot of very sensitive receptors in the faces of fish that we think probably mean they can detect damage to their skin. But whether that's actually translated into pain is the big question we haven't go to the bottom of yet.

Is it pain as we feel pain because they go 'ouch.' Or is it, 'I know that's going on: that's something that's not good and I need to do something about it,' But not necessarily, 'That really hurts.'

There was one study that does sound rather cruel but we do need to understand these things so they did it. They took freshwater trout (this is scientists from the University of Edinburgh) and they actually injected bee venom into their lips to see what that did.

What they found was that these fish, compared to ones that just had water injected into their lips, rubbed their lips on the bottom of their tank and on the gravel. They didn't go back to feed as quickly as the ones that just had water and they rocked.

In zoos sometimes or in older zoos when they weren't designed to keep animals to keep them interested and stimulated they could develop a rocking motion to show that they're not enjoying themselves. A similar thing is happening with these fish. Something is going on and I think they can sense pain.

It's still a question we haven't answered.

Comments

This is so stupid. How vacuous can someone be to assume that oysters are not conscious simply because they do not have a "brain" that resembles that of one typically found in a mammalian species - as noted above. Regardless of what else this article has to say, oysters do indeed "feel", but not generally in the same sense that humans can relate to. They most likely feel pain, given that it is a natural response to being harmed; and shucking an oyster, as you can imagine, is the greatest harm you can do to such a creature. But, the main point of all of this is - who really gives a s**t. They are at the bottom of the food chain, and their pain should not be a concern of humans, given that the oyster should simply be perceived as a source of great nutrients.

did you just make up your own definition of what is consciousness? possessing consciousness or not is completely reliant on whether if the organism has a brain or not, a brain is able to register pain because of other higher functions that must be executed in the brain in order to get a response. possessing nerves without a brain to process it would mean they cannot feel the pain because pain receptor is within the brain!

also by your explanation, we could also assume plants are conscious too because they also react towards external stimuli (e.g. sunflower rotating to the direction of the sun and carnivorous plants that can grab their food).

As a human who has only experienced humanity in a world of scientists who have also only experienced humanity, who are you to say plants are not conscious. You have never been a plant, so you can not reasonably speculate what its like to be a plant. Scientists identified our human brain as our source of human consciousness because we have experienced our own consciousness and we investigated. We have not experienced anything from the point of view of plants because we are not plants so there is nothing for us to investigate. So to say whether or not plants are conscious is an assumption or unreasonable speculation. Nothing wrong with that though. Speculate on

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