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livelaughlove21's avatar

What's the logic behind "vegetarians" who eat fish?

Asked by livelaughlove21 (15623points) April 16th, 2013 from iPhone

Are fish somehow less important than cows, pigs, and chickens? Why is killing and eating fish okay but eating other animals is inhumane?

This is a real question, not an attempt to criticize people’s dietary choices. I eat all meat, so I have no room to criticize. This is just something I’ve always wondered.

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43 Answers

syz's avatar

They are called pescetarians and it’s a compromise. It’s a way to easily get a high quality protein source, and a way to be able to easily participate in the social gathering known as “dinner” (although most restaurants now have at least one acceptable vegetarian dish). People also tend to empathize more strongly with mammals. Most fish are free caught rather than the product of mass production that includes a cannibalistic diet, growth hormones, and antibiotics. The obvious, glaring issue, of course, is the overfishing of the oceans that has resulted in a crash in the populations of many fish stocks.

zenvelo's avatar

Because they don’t have limbs. They are also healthy for you (if you don’t get mercury).

On the spectrum of diet choices, a pescatarian is looking at diet as healthy choices, with some nod to the belief to not eat your friends.

There are also people who will eat fowl, but not “meat” as they consider chicken and turkey as different.

There are a lot of ways people structure what they eat. They don’t all base it on animals vs. non-animal.

Seek's avatar

It’s okay to eat fish, ‘cause they don’t have any feelings.

Plucky's avatar

I don’t see someone who eats fish as a vegetarian. My sister was a vegetarian for as long as I have been until a couple years ago. She started eating fish. Her reasoning is that she’s trying to get pregnant and that fish can’t really feel. I threw one of my carrots at her for saying the latter.
Two years later….she’s still not pregnant.
Oh, and my partner eats only poultry and fish (for meat) – she’s never tried any other type of meat. She doesn’t consider herself vegetarian. However, others often call her one.

Pachy's avatar

I’m for leaving labeling to Smuckers and Del Monte and letting people call themselves what they wish.

thorninmud's avatar

Vegetarians have a wide variety of motivations. Some are “live and let live” vegetarians, others are “I feel better if I don’t eat red meat” vegetarians.

Empathy has its neurological basis in our mirror neurons, which observe other beings and model their experience as if we were experiencing it ourselves. The more similar that other being’s form is to our own, the easier that is to do. We don’t “read” fish easily, so we tend to write them off as “things” without emotions like ours.

JLeslie's avatar

I usually assume they are Catholics and think no meat is synonomous with vegetarian, and for them no meat Friday allowed fish.

I don’t mean all Catholics think this way, just if they do, usually I assume they are Catholic.

Mariah's avatar

These are usually people who are avoiding meat for health, not moral reasons. Fish is healthier than most meat.

filmfann's avatar

To add to others reasons:
Most fish are not grown in restricted areas. They are wild, and caught.
That said, most Salmon is raised confined.

Also, when Jesus fed the masses, he gave them fish.

dabbler's avatar

The logic is that they don’t know what the word ‘vegetarian’ means and they aren’t one.
They might be ‘vegetarian except that I eat fish’ which acknowledges they are eating an animal when they eat a fish.

Judi's avatar

Vegetarianism isn’t always a moral decision. For many it’s a health decision. They have decided that fish is a healthy source of protein and Omega 3’s. If they are smart they will admit they’re not a pure vegetarian.

cookieman's avatar

My friend, a vegan, calls them “selectatarians”.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Judi Agree. I know several vegans and all have different plans. Some do fish, shellfish, etc… some don’t (some Jews as well), some do a raw diet, some cook food, it’s all about health usually, not so much the ‘will not harm another creature’ types.

I’ve been told red meat processes through humans in about three days and should only be eaten twice a week, with lots of roughage, fish, berries, fruits and grains between for a truly healthy diet based on our bodies needs.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

They’re not really vegetarians; they’re pescatarians. And I’m assuming they choose to still eat fish for the health benefits.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL You know someone who calls themselves a vegan and eats fish? I find that very very odd.

Windmill's avatar

It’s easy to to think that fish can’t feel, isn’t it. Wonder how they could prove that they do, if they do. Do they?

El_Cadejo's avatar

My fiance does is a pescaterian for health reason as well as moral due to how we raise livestock in this country. When we were in Belize she tried chicken and steak again, she didn’t take to it too well because her body wasn’t used to it but she said if she were raised in BZ she probably would have eaten meat her whole life because of how its raised there.

I always make fun of her about it though. She goes to school for environmental science and doesn’t eat any land animals, I go to school for marine biology and all the eats is sea creatures….how fucked is that?

@Windmill of course fish feel pain

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie Yep, we discussed it once because I was a little shocked when she showed up with shrimp…lol

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL So is she a vegan, but cheats sometimes? That I can live with. It’s just that people who use the word vegan usually know something about vegetarianism; vegan usually is not used casually. Since you discussed it, did you point vegan means no animal at all? No dairy, no eggs, no jello, no marshmellows.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie She’s more of an old hippy-type that basically does whatever she wants. She changes her diet often to see what makes her feel the best, at least that’s what I got from questioning her.

My auntie was purely vegetarian and I stayed with her often, and it was pretty hard-core with soy, granola, beans, breads, etc…

Judi's avatar

My sister raised her kids Seventh Day Adventist and they encourage vegetarianism but don’t require it. It always cracked me up how much junk food they ate but felt holy about it, since it was supposed to be for health reasons. My daughter in law was at Loma Linda Hospital which is all vegetarian and they still sold vegetarian junk food in the cafeteria.

Qipaogirl's avatar

Personally, I do not eat meat other than fish for any reason other than I think that it is the most healthy. That said, unless I am able and willing to spend on fish caught wild as opposed to farmed, I will not consume fish either.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL Don’t take offense to this, but do you know the differences? The difference between, vegetarian, vegan, lacto, ovo? I am not trying to put you on the spot, it doesn’t matter if you know or not, but I feel like you possibly use vegan and vegetarian interchangeably.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie I probably don’t know all the politically correct lingo honestly. I know some people eat meat, some eat all veggies/ berries, some people have hybrids of each. My cousin stayed a week with us and called himself a vegetarian and didn’t eat meat, he had soyburgers and salads, etc…and we tried it, it was kind of cool. But no, I don’t know much about it, I like my cow still mooing…lol

Seek's avatar


Vegetarian: Chooses not to eat animal flesh.
Vegan: Chooses not to eat animal products of any kind (including eggs, milk, and sometimes honey)
Pescatarian: Chooses not to eat animal flesh, save for fish and some other seafood products.

I’m nominally pescatarian, but I’m not religious about it. I eat chicken from time to time, but I try to stay away from meat in general. I don’t eat seafood often, but that’s more because it’s expensive than for any “moral” reason. We’re all animals, after all.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr Lacto and Ovo? Sounds like martian twins….lol


zenvelo's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr @KNOWITALL Since I live near what seems to be a hotbed of vegan consciousness, the local vegans here in the San Francisco Bay Area don’t use anything that comes from the enslavement of animals: milk, cheese, eggs, honey, no leather, no wool, no silk.

cookieman's avatar

@Judi: So true. I have another friend who is a strict vegetarian for both ethical and health reasons, but can’t pass up a bakery if his life depended on it.

Seek's avatar

@zenvelo That just seems like a lot of extra work to me. How many flax plants had to die to make your linen trousers, amirite?

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL When I moved to the midwest I met more people who had no idea of the various definitions than anywhere else I have lived. You live in a part of the country that has lagged behind so to speak on the whole vegetarian thing. I don’t use lag as a negative term, just didn’t have a better word off the top of my head.

Vegan: does not eat any part of any animal, nor milk, things made from milk, nor eggs. Basically anything animal is out. Some vegans don’t even eat honey, but that is an iffy topic.

Vegetarian: is an umbrella term. Vegans are vegetarian, but not all vegetarians are vegan. If someone eats dairy and eggs they can still call themselves vegetarian, but they cannot call themselves vegan.

A vegetarian who eats dairy and eggs is called a lacto ovo vegetarian. Lacto being milk, and ovo being eggs. But, most people just say vegetarian.

You also live in a place where there are quite a few Catholics around probably, and as I said before, Catholics tend to think meat means red meat, or that fish is not meat, so they use the term vegetarian loosely for anyone who does not eat beef or chicken.

Luiveton's avatar

Some people have personal problems with whatever they do not eat. I don’t eat meat, I eat chicken and fish.

I do know a person, however, who claims they’re vegetarian but eat fish. And they claim they’re vegetarian because they’re against slaughter of animals…That annoyed me. Because 1) Fish are also within the Kingdom Animalia 2) Simply ‘not eating meat’ doesn’t make a difference in the cause they’re trying to assist because other people will buy it instead. If you’re really against slaughter then do something about it.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie @zenvelo Thanks, that is a clear explanation. Talk about discipline, wow, it seems like it would be difficult to and expensive to eat only things that didn’t ‘enslave’ animals for food.

I was raised on a farm with cows, a fishing pond and chickens. My mom even had hogs at one farm. Honestly, they were treated like family until butchering time, I thought they were pets until I was around 9–10 years old.

That being said, I have seen videos from PETA, and it’s awful. Here the worst thing I’ve seen is people leaving animals on rural land to starve, and most of the time it’s dogs and horses, very sad.

cutiepi92's avatar

haven’t read the entire thread, but I’d like to point out that many people who only eat fish and not other types of meat usually are doing it for health reasons and not because the give a crap about the animal. My grandparents are currently on a pescetarian kick but not because they don’t like beef, pork, and fowl (because it’s delicious). It’s because that stuff messes up your arteries and whatnot a lot more than seafood does

JLeslie's avatar

A lot of people have mentioned fish as healthier than other animal foods, and I just wanted to point out if you are trying to lower cholesterol, fish has cholesterol, some just as high as red meat. Especially shell fish like shrimp is high in cholesterol. Some fish are high in certain Omega fats which are believed to be beneficial to our health, but again, if cholesterol is your problem, substituting fish for meat isn’t going to help much, what will most likely help a lot is eating much fewer mg of cholesterol.

Also, eating an overabundance of certain fish risks high levels of mercury in your system. Pregnant women especially should be careful about tuna and some other fishes.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie I was told that salmon and shrimp should only be eaten on occasion, but tilapia, crappy and other sunfish types can be eaten 2–3 times per week.

If you’ve never had walleye, you should, it’s some of the best fish I’ve ever eaten in my life, and I’ve eaten a LOT.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL If I see walleye I’ll try it. Thanks. I never remember which fish have a lot of mercury. I never have it more than 3 times a week, so I don’t worry about keeping count. I remember an actor once being on TV who got on a sushi kick, and was eating fish every day, sometimes twice a day and became very very sick from the mercury. You really need to eat a lot I think, most people probably are not at risk.

I did check my mercury blood level though a few years ago out of curiousity.

Judi's avatar

Back in the olden days if you were on weight watchers you had to eat fish 6 times a week and liver once a week.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie Deep fried chunks is the way most of us eat it, not healthy I know.

I mostly eat pond fish out of our freshwater ponds, rivers and lakes are too polluted, even here sadly. Frogs are good low-fat protein too if you’re into it.

@Judi Liver? Blahhhhhhhh, hate it any way you cook it.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL I’m actually trying to be 90% vegan. LOL. When I eat out I am giving myself a little bit of a pass, because it is so difficult at restaurants, and I do enjoy a little steak/fish/pizza now and then.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@JLeslie Wow, impressive, I hope it works out for you. Like I said, I tried it at my aunts and when my cousin stayed with us to be polite, but I felt pretty good. Meat is good for my anemia, too, that and dark leafy greens.

JLeslie's avatar

@KNOWITALL I am chronically anemic also without taking mega iron. Meat doesn’t seem to have helped that at all. I also run low on b12 (very low normal, but scary that it might go lower in between testing it withut taking B12 supplements) which with the amount of meat I was eating one would think would not be a problem. I’m hoping the vegan diet does a better job. Probably won’t, but you never know. There is more protein, vitamins and minerals packed into veggies and fruits per calorie than meat. I recently read a book that changed my thinking about that. But, my main focus honestly is my cholesterol, I am getting too old not to do the right thing. If I eat cholesterol, my cholesterol goes up. Bad genes.

Luke86's avatar

Anyone ever hear that saying,” how can you tell if someone is vegan? Don’t worry they will tell you” LOL. Seriously though, I’ve met a lot of people who claim to be vegetarians and they eat vegetables but they eat meat on the weekends. To me it’s BS, they are just regular people who are on a different diet in my opinion. I think they just say that to make them sound better than everyone else. Don’t get me wrong i have met true vegetarians who only eat vegetables because they believe they are making a difference, I have no problems with those folks.

flo's avatar

You are right @livelaughlove21 fish are not vegetables so you are right for wondering. There is no good answer they can’t call themselves vegetarians really.

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