Pescatarian – do vegetarians eat fish
Emma-Jayne is tired of explaining to waiter in restaurants that a fish is an animal. She looks at Pescatarians, vegetarians and why there is no such thing as a “fish-eating vegetarian”.
I have been a vegetarian since around 1996. In that time, much progress has been made. Here in the UK, vegetarians aren’t perceived as dirty hippies or oddballs and have been accepted into the mainstream. Supermarkets and small corner shops alike cater for the vegetarian pallet and you can set foot in any restaurant (or fast food place, if you prefer) and be offered multiple meal ideas.
This is indeed a golden age for vegetarianism.
However, even in these wonderful times, I am still offered fish as a vegetarian option. I find this so frustrating!
The Vegetarian Society, who I believe are the oldest vegetarian organisation in the world, define a vegetarian thus:
“A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea, or slaughter by-products.”
Quite simply, vegetarians never do and (unless they become pescatarians) never will eat fish.
To me, it is absurd to think that some people call themselves vegetarian yet still eat animals. Fish are animals too – sea-dwelling animals with the ability to suffer like their cuddly counterparts on the menu. When caught, they slowly suffocate to death in a fit of panic. They can die alone or, as is the case with fishing nets, crushed up against the thrashing bodies of their shoal-mates. While the lives of fish are far more natural than factory-farmed animals, their death is still quite gruesome. Have you ever heard someone say “I’m a vegetarian who eats cows?” We know that a cow is sentient being, with thoughts and feelings of it’s own. But for some of us, it can be difficult to extend this circle of compassion to creatures of the slimy and scaled variety.
I am tired and frustrated with having to deal with the “fish-eating vegetarian” myth. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had to explain to restaurant staff that fish are animals and therefore not a part of a vegetarian diet.
Diets are as individual as the people who follow them. I am a vegetarian because I think it is wrong to take the life of an animal when I don’t have to. I sometimes frown upon people who eat factory-farmed animals. Some vegans frown upon me because animals still suffer so I can enjoy the luxury of eggs and milk. We each do what we can to reduce suffering in the world, and that is an admirable thing.
But it is important not to mix-up our dietary labels. A vegan is very different from a vegetarian. Eating certain species, or only meat on rare occasions is very different from vegetarianism.
There are people who choose not to eat any meat except for fish. These people refer to themselves as pescatarians. If fish are the only animals you eat, please use this word and stop calling yourself a vegetarian. I know it can be tricky trying to explain your diet but I, and many other vegetarians, would appreciate it!