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Are Scallops Vegan? (Or Vegetarian?)

Veganism seems simple enough on the surface. You simply follow a certain set of diet and lifestyle rules and you’re golden.

However, there are certain practices and foods which blur the lines between being a vegan and not being one. One of these foods is scallops.

Over the years there has been a lot of confusion surrounding the dietary status of scallops, with some individuals believing them to be vegan, and consuming them as part of a vegan diet, and other individuals vehemently against this practice.

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian that’s confused about what you should be doing in regards to scallops, or if you’re simply a curious bystander on the edge of this hot debate, then you’ve come to the right place!

This article will provide the low-down on both sides of the argument and will help you come to a decision about your scallop-eating habits.

What Is Veganism?

Veganism is a lifestyle choice in which the individual follows a plant-based diet, consuming no meat or animal products like eggs, or milk. They also do not buy, wear, or use any animal by-products, like leather, products that have been tested on animals, or bone china.

People choose to go vegan for a plethora of reasons.

Some make the switch because they believe it will be better for their health, some believe the practices involved with killing and farming animals is inhumane, and others think it is more beneficial to the environment to stop eating meat.

What Is Vegetarianism?

A vegetarian is very similar to a vegan. They do not eat any meat or fish, but they do eat animal products such as eggs and dairy products.

What Are Scallops?

Are Scallops Vegan? (Or Vegetarian?)

Scallops are a type of bivalve mollusk, similar to clams, muscles, and oysters. They are all part of the Pectinidae family. A bivalve mollusk has two shells surrounding its interior muscle.

When eating a scallop, humans will eat the white adductor muscle, which is inside its shell.

There are many different types of scallop, but the most common kind is known as the tiny bay scallop, and it can be found on the East Coast in estuaries and bays. Larger sea scallops are also common, and they can typically be found on the ocean floor.

Are Scallops Vegan Or Vegetarian?

This is where it gets complicated. There is a hot debate in the vegan community as to whether scallops and bivalves are living things that can feel pain, or if they’re more like sea plants.

On one hand, scallops and other bivalves are not sentient and lack a central nervous system, leading many people to believe they cannot feel pain and do not suffer when harvested.

A lot of individuals make the comparison between scallops and plants that are considered ‘alive’. This also leads many vegans (and vegetarians!) to believe that all seafood that does not have a central nervous system can be considered vegan.

On the other hand, other individuals argue that scallops are invertebrate animals, and there has not been sufficient research into them to determine whether they feel pain.

This, on top of the ethical and environmental issues with the way scallops are harvested leads many individuals to conclude that scallops are not vegan.

Do Scallops Feel?

Are Scallops Vegan? (Or Vegetarian?)

It has not yet been proven if scallops feel or don’t feel. Therefore, we cannot give you a definite answer.

On one side, bivalves do not struggle or react when caught. They do not have a brain, and so they cannot experience pain in the same way we can. While they do have a nervous system, it does not seem to respond to danger or pain.

However, many vegans believe that scallops can feel. These individuals believe that it has not yet been proven that scallops are not sentient, and even if they do not have a brain, they exhibit behaviors similar to that of other animals.

They state that scallops have eyes on the periphery of their bodies, and these eyes react to movement and light. Additionally, they are thought to have been found swimming away from danger by using their shells.

Vegans of the latter mindset acknowledge that it is difficult to say if scallops can feel pain without the obvious tells – legs, faces, etc.

However, they claim that because of this, the more compassionate thing to do is assume that they do suffer until science proves otherwise, and avoid eating them.

After all, just because a scallop cannot feel pain the same way we do, does not necessarily mean they do not experience pain.

Can You Be Vegan Or Vegetarian And Eat Scallops?

Based on the lack of research surrounding scallops, it is not possible to give a definitive answer to this question. Ultimately, it is down to the individual to decide what they do with their diet. So, if you want to label yourself as vegan and eat scallops, then this is your prerogative!

However, if you do not feel right using the labels vegan or vegetarian to describe yourself because you eat scallops, you might prefer the terms, ‘ostrovegan’, or ‘pescatarian’.

As you may have guessed, an ‘ostrovegan’ is someone who is vegan with the exception of bivalves. A ‘pescatarian’ is an individual who is vegetarian with the exception of fish, bivalves included.

What Can Vegans Replace Scallops With?

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian who does not want to include scallops in their diet, then we have some alternatives. You can use both tofu and the stems from king oyster mushrooms to make a vegan alternative to scallops.

Non-Vegan Reasons To Avoid Scallops

While scallops are tasty and nutritious, there are some reasons to avoid eating them that have little to do with veganism.

Heavy Metals

A lot of seafood contains harmful metals. Scallops are no exception to this, with every scallop potentially containing arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury. It is harmful to humans to let these harmful substances accumulate in our bodies.

However, there’s no need to panic. Scallops are safe to eat as long as you’re not allergic, as the potential of having these metals is low.

However, you should check with your doctor or a medical professional before eating scallops to be on the safe side, as pregnant women, older adults, and certain other groups are advised to avoid them.


Shellfish are a common food allergen, scallops included.

The Ecosystem

Scallops have important roles in the ecosystem. They help to purify seawater and make it safe for other creatures. Additionally, dredging a scallop from the seafloor can damage the surrounding ecosystem.

Why Do People Choose To Eat Scallops?

People choose to eat scallops as part of a balanced diet. Scallops can have tremendous nutritional and health benefits! They are rich in protein, iron, calcium, Vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, plus so much more!

These minerals help us obtain a healthy immune system. Vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc ensure are all nutrients vital for the brain and the nervous system.

Other nutrients present in scallops, like potassium and magnesium, relax your blood vessels and help to keep your heart healthy.

Final Thoughts

Without sufficient research, there’s no way to really know if a scallop is truly an invertebrate animal that can feel pain and suffer in its own way, or if they’re more akin to plants, and, while alive, do not suffer when harvested.

Some vegans choose not to eat scallops because of this lack of research, believing it to be the more compassionate act, while others believe that they can enjoy a scallop without any guilt attached.

There does not seem to be a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer to this question, so it is down to the individual to make whatever choice is best for them.

Jess Smith

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Monday 8th of August 2022



Monday 11th of July 2022

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Wednesday 1st of June 2022

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Friday 6th of May 2022