Do Clams Have Brains?


Clams, along with other bivalves like oysters and mussels, are one of the few animals that some vegetarians are okay with eating.

Many claim that they have no brain, or can’t feel pain.

The truth is that clams do have a simple nervous system, but we don’t exactly know if they feel pain or not.

Let me go over what we do know.

First, Do Clams Have Brains?

Here’s what the inside of a clam looks like:

clam anatomy

Most of those parts are organs or part of the digestive system, but there is a nervous system.

Ganglion (the cerebral pleural ganglion, pedal ganglion, and visceral ganglia) are bundles of nerves. Each of these areas control different functions in the clam.

There’s also a nerve cord, which runs along the length of the body and connects the nerves and organs.

So is there a brain?

It depends on what you consider a brain. Clams can feel certain sensations and respond, but there’s almost certainly no conscious thought.

Clams aren’t planning for the future or thinking about what to do next, they just drift around and react to stimulus while performing instinctual tasks.

To most people, it seems like clams don’t really have brains.

Do Clams Feel Pain?

So if clams don’t have brains, can they still feel pain?

That’s the part that’s really unclear still; researchers don’t have a clear answer.

Clams can clearly respond to certain stimulus, but whether or not that stimulus can create a feeling that we imagine as “pain” is unknown.

This brings up the final question that most people have: Should people eat clams?

Vegans and most vegetarians will say no, because clams are still animals and might feel pain. It’s better to be on the safe side.

Still, some vegetarians are okay with eating clams, saying that applying some common sense we can say that they likely don’t experience pain (or very little if any).

What do you think?

About the author

Dale C.

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance writer. Trying to do my small part in making the world better by writing about the wonderful world of veganism.

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