Shrimp is a small marine decapods crustacean with an elongated body, tail, and with many legs. Crustaceans are a type of shellfish that includes lobsters, crabs, and crayfish besides shrimp. Just like the members of phylum Mollusca and Echinodermata, I have seen many vegans question whether they can eat them or not.
Can vegans eat shrimp?
The answer is definitely no! Shrimps are invertebrate animals and not plants. I know there is little scientific information available about them but that does not mean they do not feel (which is most vegans’ explanation for eating them). A vegan diet does not include any kind of animal whatsoever.
People decide to take on a vegan path for different reasons. Some religious, some for health reasons, others for environment conservation reasons, and others because they have compassion for animals. However, this does not mean that certain animals are vegan for some but not for others just because they fit in their reasoning.
Reasons why shrimps are not vegan
As I mentioned earlier, the main reason why some vegans justify eating shrimp is on the account that they don’t feel pain, hence no animal suffering occurs for them to have them. The problem with this belief is that not enough research has been done on shrimps to confirm that they have no feelings. Nobody is sure how much suffering and pain they go through as they die. If you are compassionate about other animals, why use assumption to decide the fate of these finless fish?
I know some vegans argue that as long as an animal does not feel pain when they’re being killed then it is okay to eat them. This has brought a lot of confusion to veganism. While it’s true that there isn’t a common guide on veganism, the basic definition of this practice is abstaining from consuming any animal products or by-products.
People are venturing into veganism with a different perspective on what they should and shouldn’t eat. Nowadays the market even has vegan everything, from leather to make-up, wool, and so on. My question, therefore, remains, how is the fact that shrimp is an animal not enough reason for vegans to stay away?
The ethical implications of eating shrimp go far beyond just hurting animals. There’s much environmental destruction and inhumanity involved in shrimping. The amount of by-catch is shocking as well. About 20 pounds of sea creatures are lost in the process of catching a pound of shrimp! Once fishers identify a certain quarry, they kill and injure other animals in the process of catching the shrimp or any other sea animals. Sea turtles are the most common marine creatures caught in shrimp nets where they often die.
Studies show that about 60% of shrimp farms are established from cleared mangrove forests. The farms are only used for about 5 years before being rendered unfit for shrimp survival because of sludge and the acid sulfate soil. Ponds and swamps, which were once sustaining biodiversity, become deadly to animal and plant life.
Another reason why you should avoid shrimp is the devastating effect it has on marine life. Unlike humans who eat seafood because of its sweet taste, sea creatures such as seals, dolphins, and seabirds have to consume it for survival. Large-scale fishing reduces the food source for such animals. By-catch is a huge contributor to the decline of the sea animal population. Isn’t veganism all about conserving the environment and having compassion for animals?
If your body is sensitive to dietary cholesterol, shrimp might be a bad choice for you. It contains high levels of cholesterol with an 85-gram of its serving containing 166 mg of cholesterol. Studies show that this is over 85% more than the cholesterol in other seafood such as tuna.
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Secondly, most of the shrimp farmers, except the USA, use antibiotics on the shrimp to reduce their susceptibility to diseases. Although this has not been confirmed to have major health defects, it can lead to antibiotic tolerance.
Last, but not least, if you have a shellfish allergy, stay away from shrimp. Your body can respond negatively to the proteins in them. Symptoms include a tingling feeling in the mouth, nasal congestion, skin reaction, and anaphylactic reactions such as seizures, unconsciousness, or even worse, death.
Are there any vegan-friendly alternatives to shrimp?
There is good news for vegans who love shrimp, and that is vegan shrimp. This is not made by reproducing shrimp cells in the lab but rather a mixture of algae and protein-based plant powder. The process of making the fake shrimp is similar to that of baking bread. Vegans can now keep enjoying the freshness of a classic crispy summer roll and the crunchiness of popcorn shrimp; plus, vegan shrimp is healthier and kinder to the environment.
The texture of this shrimp substitute is the same as that of the real one and also tastes just like fish. Red algae are the secret ingredient, which is a perfect choice since it is available in plenty. Another reason why it is the perfect ingredient for this purpose is that it is the red color that gives the plant-based shrimp a pink hue. The pink hue makes it look more realistic. The product is purely vegan since there are no animals or animal by-products used.
It is thanks to modern technology that vegans can now have myriad plant-based meat substitutes and meat grown in the lab. Consumers, especially vegans, are starting to accept the idea of consuming artificial meat.
Recipe for homemade vegan shrimp
For those who love shrimp, you can make alternative vegan food at home that tastes exactly like real shrimp. This is less costly compared to the packaged vegan shrimp. You can use any vegan foods such as king oyster mushroom stems. Unlike the fake shrimp sold in shops, which could contain traces of animal products, you can control what goes into your homemade vegan shrimp.
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For the shrimp, only strictly vegan ingredients are used. They include white flour, soy milk, apple cider vinegar, onion powder, and corn starch. Other recipes replace king oyster mushroom with sweet potato puree. In that case, baby food also works quite well. The ingredients are mixed accordingly and the batter is divided into the preferred shapes and sizes. They are then dropped into hot oil to fry. Homemade vegan shrimp is mostly served with a vegan sauce such as the Bang Bang sauce.
Spending a couple of minutes making homemade vegan shrimp is far much better than participating in habitat destruction and animal harm. You can get the same taste from plant-based products, so why choose the death of animals just to please your taste buds for 5 minutes? Plus, purchasing the above plant-based ingredients is far cheaper than buying shrimp.
How do vegans compensate for the minerals found in shrimp?
One of the reasons people eat shrimp is because it is rich in so many nutrients, including proteins, omega-3 fats, calcium, and iron. Young people need these for growth and pregnant women require them for the health of both the mother and the baby. They all play important roles on the body such as:
- Proteins: Important in powering all chemical reactions in the body
- Calcium: Strengthening teeth and bones
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Cell health and protecting the heart from diseases
A vegan diet is generally very healthy but you need to compensate for all the minerals the body is missing from animal products. But you don’t have to eat shrimp to get all these important nutrients as they are available in several vegan foods as shown below:
- Proteins: Soy, quinoa, nuts, and beans
- Iron: Soy nuts, spinach, fortified cereals, tofu, pulses, and peanut butter
- Calcium: Almonds, broccoli, soy milk, kales, as well as dried fruits like resins, prunes, and apricots.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: vegetable oil, flax seeds, and vegan supplements