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Liberal
01-26-2007, 03:36 PM
According to a television program on the Discover channel "The Real Lost World", the Catholic Church has declared this rodent to be a fish, so that it can be eaten on Fridays. Does anyone know whether this is true? Wikipedia asserts it as well, but does not cite.

Lamar Mundane
01-26-2007, 03:49 PM
The Catholic Church doesn't actually decree that you must abstain from meat on Fridays, just some food. Meat is just a tradition.

Canon 1251 Abstinence from eating meat or another food according to the prescriptions of the conference of bishops is to be observed on Fridays throughout the year unless (nisi) they are solemnities; abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and on the Friday of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

As to capybara, no clue.

CalMeacham
01-26-2007, 03:59 PM
My BS detector is tingling, just as it did with the whole "Goose Barnacle"/"Barnacle Goose" thing. I'm suspicious. "Capybara" a FISH? Gimme a break!

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker
01-26-2007, 04:02 PM
It's a paraphyletic fish.

Bricker
01-26-2007, 04:03 PM
According to a television program on the Discover channel "The Real Lost World", the Catholic Church has declared this rodent to be a fish, so that it can be eaten on Fridays. Does anyone know whether this is true? Wikipedia asserts it as well, but does not cite.

It's not true, and there would be no need to make such a declaration if the goal were simply to permit the faithful to eat capybara meat on Fridays of Lent. Every area of the world falls under the authority of an episcopal conference, whose duty it is to set norms for their part of the word, and those norms may be overidden by individual bishops within their own dioceses. In many poorer areas of the world, for example, meat is permitted on Fridays, simply because it is for many people a rare enough occasion and a needed source of protein that denying it on Friday would be unwise.

So an episcopal conference or an individual bishops could easily declare that capybara meat is permitted for whatever reason, without having to nonsenically declare that it is a fish for the purpose of circumventing the regulation.

Squink
01-26-2007, 04:27 PM
There appears to be something to this story.
lent capybara church (http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&lr=&safe=off&c2coff=1&q=lent+capybara+church&btnG=Search)
Impact of the Venezuelan economic crisis on wild populations of animals and plants - group of 5 »
JP RodrőÂguez - Biological Conservation, 2000 - ecosystems.wcp.muohio.edu
... Because capybara prefer habitats in the vicinity of water ... they are accepted by the
Catholic church as ``®sh ... in some urban markets during Lent (Ojasti, 1991).
lent capybara (http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&lr=&safe=off&c2coff=1&q=lent+capybara&btnG=Search) Large ranches as conservation tools in the Venezuelan llanos - group of 3 »
R Hoogesteijn, CA Chapman - Oryx, 1997 - Blackwell Synergy
... eaten in Lent. The Roman Catholic religion does not allow the consumption of meat
in this period but does allow its followers to eat fish; the capybara, being ...
Cited by 14 - Related Articles - Web Search - BL Direct
AP story at The Capybara page (http://www.rebsig.com/capybara/capymeat.html) When Venezuelans' appetite for capybara clashed with the church's ban on eating meat during Lent, a local priest asked the Vatican to give the world's biggest rodent the status of fish. People rejoiced when the Vatican agreed, declaring that capybara isn't meat. More than two centuries later, they still consider the 130-pound capybara a delicacy and pay big bucks to put it on their dinner tables.
"It's the most scrumptious dish that exists," says Freddy Colina...

JillGat
01-26-2007, 04:43 PM
In Lima, Peru there is a large picture of the Last Supper showing Jesus and the apostles eating guinea pigs. Same deal, I would say.

Colibri
01-26-2007, 04:50 PM
Personally I wouldn't be too surprised if there was some basis to this story. As Squink's third link says, it's not that capybara was declared to be fish, but that it was declared not to be meat, which is somewhat different. Moreover, the original declaration allegedly was made several centuries ago.

I do recall reading that whale, seal, and I think manatee have in the past been considered to fall under the category of fish with regard to abstinence rules, but haven't been able to find a cite. This would make sense, since these animals were considered to be fish under the common classifications of the time.

It would not be surprising if some local bishops had ruled some centuries ago that capybara, as an aquatic animal, did not qualify as meat under the abstinence rules. This has morphed today into the story that "the Catholic Church" has declared the capybara to be "a fish."

Darryl Lict
01-26-2007, 04:52 PM
I'm a little disappointed. I think capybara would probably make some excellent eating. I've had the cuy (guinea pig) and it's a little disturbing to see the little skull and 4 limbs pointing up in the air. Capybara steaks would remove the American societal barrier of consuming entire mammals (regional traditions such as luaus are acknowledged). There's a new Peruvian restaurant in town and the first thing I did was run over and see if there was guinea pig on the menu. Sadly enough, no.

There's a painting in a museum that was formerly a colonial house in Arequipa, Peru (Casa de Moral Mansion) with a painting of the last supper with a guinea pig as the main dish. Christ, I'm hijacking my own hijack.

If I had a large freshwater lagoon, I'd be all over having a pet capybara. They are soooo cute! Chicks would completely dig me walking it around town. I'll bet the turds aren't all that bad, being entirely composed of vegetable matter. Do they shit in pellets like a rabbit? Probably chicken egg sized pellets, huh?

Has any one had nutria? I'll bet it tastes pretty similar, being a water loving rodent and all that.

What does the Catholic church have to say about whale meat? Is it acceptable for Japanese, Icelandic and Norwegian Catholics to eat whale meat on Friday's?

My friend from San Diego says that a capybara escaped from a zoo (this would've been 30 years ago) and was surviving in the wild. He claims that he saw it crossing the 15 one night.

Sorry about the hijack, and yes, I'm obsessed with capybaras.

Squink
01-26-2007, 05:07 PM
In Lima, Peru there is a large picture of the Last Supper showing Jesus and the apostles eating guinea pigs. Same deal, I would say.There's a painting in a museum that was formerly a colonial house in Arequipa, Peru (Casa de Moral Mansion) with a painting of the last supper with a guinea pig as the main dish. Christ, I'm hijacking my own hijack.Last Supper, Cuzco's Cathedral. Jesus and His disciples are having cui, a roasted guinea pig. I figured if cui is good for Jesus it must be good for me! (http://www.geocities.com/mart_eden/lastsupper.html)

gigi
01-26-2007, 05:08 PM
The Catholic Church doesn't actually decree that you must abstain from meat on Fridays, just some food. Meat is just a tradition.There's abstinence (no meat), and fasting (one regular meal and two small meals not to add up to one regular meal). The rules of US Catholic Conference of Bishops:

<<Ash Wednesday (http://www.nccbuscc.org/dpp/penitential.htm) This day marks the beginning of the Lenten season. The imposition of ashes is an ancient penitential practice symbolizing our dependence upon God's mercy and forgiveness. Ash Wednesday is a day of fast and abstinence in the Church.

Good Friday—Christ suffered and died for our salvation on Friday. On the Friday that we call "Good," the Church gathers to commemorate Jesus' Passion and death. Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence. The Good Friday fast is the Paschal fast—a fast of anticipation and longing for the Passover of the Lord, which should continue, when possible, through Holy Saturday.

Fridays During Lent—In the United States, the tradition of abstaining from meat on each Friday during Lent is maintained.

Fridays Throughout the Year—In memory of Christ's suffering and death, the Church prescribes making each Friday throughout the year a penitential day. All of us are urged to prepare appropriately for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday.

...
Abstinence—In the United States, this penitential practice consists of refraining from the consumption of meat. The Latin Church's requirement of abstinence binds Catholics after they have celebrated their fourteenth birthday, and it is practiced on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the Fridays during Lent.>>

JillGat
01-26-2007, 05:08 PM
I found this:

You'll enjoy capybaras to eat;
Venezuelans proclaim them a treat.
Those of Catholic bent
May consume them for Lent
If a fine rodent burger's their meat.
--------------------

(Capybaras can hold their breath underwater for quite a long time, so maybe that's where it came from.)

I'm looking into whether the same rule holds for agoutis in Trinidad.

Tamerlane
01-26-2007, 05:12 PM
I do recall reading that whale, seal, and I think manatee have in the past been considered to fall under the category of fish with regard to abstinence rules, but haven't been able to find a cite. This would make sense, since these animals were considered to be fish under the common classifications of the time.

Wee bit harder explaining fetal rabbits, aka "laurices." :p

Mmmmm....delicious fetal rabbits.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laurices

- Tamerlane

Throatwarbler Mangrove
01-26-2007, 05:23 PM
I am intrigued by this idea. How big are these fetal rabbits? I imagine not very, in which case, are they consumed whole, in the sense of those little crab cakes one gets at parties? Do they have bones?

Quartz
01-26-2007, 05:24 PM
My BS detector is tingling, just as it did with the whole "Goose Barnacle"/"Barnacle Goose" thing. I'm suspicious. "Capybara" a FISH? Gimme a break!

I'm not sure if it's the Barnacle Goose, but there was one breed of goose that used to be classed as fish. According to the Clerk of the Fishmongers' Company, this was because it used to fly in from the sea. Of course, he may have been having me on.

But there is precedent for the Papal dispensation: apparently puffins (http://www.rnbws.org.uk/pdfs/Bulletin142.pdf) were classed as fish by dispensation of the Pope (PDF)

INFORMATION IN THE LISLE LETTERS FROM CALAIS.
We are grateful to Dr Bourne for providing us with a window into the 16th Century
and the development of the bird trade. At this time Gulls were apparently reared for the pot and thanks to a dispensation from the Pope Puffins were classed as fish and could be eaten on Fridays.

JillGat
01-26-2007, 06:00 PM
What's in a Name?; October 1994; Scientific American Magazine; by Mukerjee; 1 Page(s)

The classification of the planet's life-forms has implications that reach beyond biology. Take the capybara, a shy and intelligent rodent that in size (100 pounds) and color looks much like a pig. Yet in the 16th century, in response to a petition by Venezuelans and Colombians, the pope decreed that the capybara is a fish. The dispensation enables observant communicants to consume the creature during the fast of Lent--more than 400 tons of it every year, according to a 1991 report by the National Research Council.

Likewise gracing the Lenten menu in parts of Canada is the beaver's tail. The scaliness and predominantly aquatic environment of the appendage persuaded the Royal Academy of Sciences of Paris in the early 1700s to place it in the piscine order. The faculty of divinity at the University of Paris graciously deferred to the superior scientific acumen of its colleagues.

JillGat
01-26-2007, 06:27 PM
For some reason, this has sparked my interest so much that I've spent a ridiculous amount of time today researching Catholics and capybaras. The story about the pope in the 1600s classifying capybara a fish so European missionaries in Venezuela and Colombia would have something to eat on Friday is oft-quoted but I still haven't seen a good Catholic pope source for this. It does sound like a myth. I read one place that the Latin name "carnii" (or something like that) means "land-dwelling, warm-blooded animal." Maybe they let the capybara slide as Friday food because it's mostly water-dwelling? Beyond that, I wonder if they actually classified animals the way we do today?

Sapo
01-26-2007, 06:48 PM
Catholic Venezuelan checking in. I have hunted and eaten capybaras (chiguires) and was a seminarian there (what are the odds, huh?)

Capybaras are, in effect, large rodents, about the size of a small pig or a medium-large dog. They live most of their lives in flooded plains (esteros).

They are, most definitely, not fish nor does the Church think or established that they are fish, but there was a Papal dispensation allowing their consumption in days of abstinence.

I seem to remember this dispensation was some sort of trade for some favor or another but I can't really remember. I will make a phone call tomorrow to the priest at my home parish and try to find out.

Most people think capybara tastes like fish because the meat is often salt packed with fish flour (way to compound a confusion, guys, well done). If you eat it fresh, which is quite a rare delicacy, its taste is more gamey (as you would expect). The reality, though, is that most people eat it so heavily condimented that it could just as easily be iguana or chicken or rabbit.

Cooking it whole over a fire is very, very rare. Most people just get the dry strips.

There are other large rodenty animals we eat there. Lapas (a dog sized short-eared rabbit) are more common than capybaras and only available fresh and normally grilled whole, which keeps the taste much better. There is also a miniature elephant-cousin called the danta or tapir.

None of these shares the friday-kosher status.

Tamerlane
01-26-2007, 06:52 PM
I imagine not very, in which case, are they consumed whole, in the sense of those little crab cakes one gets at parties? Do they have bones?

They say uneviscerated, so I assume they are cooked whole. Presumably being less than fully developed the bones aren't a big issue.

So far a quick search hasn't turned up any recipes, but I'm almost certain I've seen one before. I'll keep looking ;).

- Tamerlane

Chronos
01-26-2007, 07:03 PM
Of course, the reason for the distinction in the first place is that, at the time the rule originated, meat (meaning the flesh of most mammals and birds, i.e., what was forbidden) was a luxury, while fish was "peasant food". So the idea was to deny oneself luxury. But I gather that, in the appropriate climate, capybaras are abundant and cheap, and are eaten by the peasants, so in an economic sense, it'd be reasonable to allow them on days of abstinence.

capybara
01-26-2007, 07:37 PM
Come on over, baby. Room 307. Form an orderly line.

Sapo
01-26-2007, 07:56 PM
Come on over, baby. Room 307. Form an orderly line.
it IS friday, you know?

Colibri
01-26-2007, 08:18 PM
There are other large rodenty animals we eat there. Lapas (a dog sized short-eared rabbit) are more common than capybaras and only available fresh and normally grilled whole, which keeps the taste much better.

I imagine that must be the paca (http://www.guyana.org/Guyana_Photo_Gallery/animals/labba%20-%20paca-2.jpg), which we call here in Panama the conejo pintado (spotted rabbit). It's actually closer to capybaras and guinea pigs than rabbits. The meat is very tasty - it's my favorite rodent, even better than guinea pig.

Although I've visited El Cedral in the Venezuelan LLanos, which is teeming with capybaras, unfortunately they didn't have it on the menu the two nights I was there so I've never tried it.

Sapo
01-26-2007, 09:19 PM
I imagine that must be the paca (http://www.guyana.org/Guyana_Photo_Gallery/animals/labba%20-%20paca-2.jpg), which we call here in Panama the conejo pintado (spotted rabbit). It's actually closer to capybaras and guinea pigs than rabbits. The meat is very tasty - it's my favorite rodent, even better than guinea pig.

Although I've visited El Cedral in the Venezuelan LLanos, which is teeming with capybaras, unfortunately they didn't have it on the menu the two nights I was there so I've never tried it.
that's the one! yummy indeed. Although endangered. We really shouldn't be eating them.

When did you go to El Cedral? Who did you work with? I have never been there myself but know (as classmate or pupil) most of the people who worked there then.

You really missed out on the capibara. Sorry to rub it in.

Throatwarbler Mangrove
01-26-2007, 09:58 PM
Only a handful of responses, and yet this subject has already attracted the attention of no less than three SDSAB members. If anything can be said of the SDMB, it's that we really, really like our capybaras! :p

Colibri
01-26-2007, 09:59 PM
that's the one! yummy indeed. Although endangered. We really shouldn't be eating them.

Actually, we have a program here at the Smithsonian in Panama to domesticate them so they can be raised in captivity for meat. I've had it in small towns in the Darien where there wasn't much else on the menu. But I haven't had any for 10 years or so.


When did you go to El Cedral? Who did you work with? I have never been there myself but know (as classmate or pupil) most of the people who worked there then.

I went to El Cedral when I visited Venezuela in 2000. It was spectacular. I haven't seen so much wildlife outside East Africa. Anaconda, Giant Anteater, Pink Dolphin, caimans, capybara, swarms of bird. My guides were named Victor and Ramon.

You really missed out on the capibara. Sorry to rub it in.

I may be in Venezuela again for a conference later this year, so maybe I'll get another chance. We do have them here in Panama, but they aren't hunted much or farmed.

JillGat
01-26-2007, 11:18 PM
Lappe is popular in Trinidad too. It's very good to eat, as is agouti (a somewhat smaller, capybara-type animal). (Of course you could cook tires and old shoes in curry and coconut milk and it would be good, too...) Other popular wild meats there are manicou (opossum), iguana, tattoo (armadillo - yuck), quenk (wild boar) and a small deer of some kind. I think the agouti is farmed but I don't know about lappe. I want an agouti for a pet.

Polycarp
01-26-2007, 11:36 PM
While it's easy enough to chuckle about the idea that "well, the capybara is amphibious, so they called it a fish to get around the no-meat-on-Fridays rule," it's important, I think, to remember that the typical peasant diet considered actual cuts of meat, as opposed to leftover scraps and sauces used to flavor starch dishes, to be something eaten on feasts. Roast beef was for special occasions, chicken for Sunday dinner.

And on days of abstinence, you refrained from eating meat, both in commemoration of Jesus's sacrifice and emulating it in a small way by making your own minor sacrifice, and for the self-discipline of self-deprivation. But, much as Jewish law tended to be interpreted, there was an eye both to unswerving principle and to tempering the command to the necessities of life. So if some small animal was readily available for food, and some agile rationalization would deem it "not meat," it became exempt from the abstain-from-meat principle. And in Latin America, this started with the cavy, the guinea pig -- and was then extended to the caviformes, the rodents related to the cavy.

JillGat
01-27-2007, 02:12 AM
Polycarp said:
So if some small animal was readily available for food, and some agile rationalization would deem it "not meat," it became exempt from the abstain-from-meat principle. And in Latin America, this started with the cavy, the guinea pig -- and was then extended to the caviformes, the rodents related to the cavy.

Do you have a cite for this?

Liberal
01-28-2007, 03:04 AM
Poly?

Polycarp
01-28-2007, 07:38 AM
So if some small animal was readily available for food, and some agile rationalization would deem it "not meat," it became exempt from the abstain-from-meat principle. And in Latin America, this started with the cavy, the guinea pig -- and was then extended to the caviformes, the rodents related to the cavy.

Jillgat sked for a cite for this assertion of mine, which I remembered reading somewhere and figured would be easy to trace and document.

Yeah, right! List it as "Poly unintentionally perpetuates an unproven factoid," please! :o

DSYoungEsq
01-28-2007, 09:04 AM
Ok, all this talk about eating capybaras has me nervous. After the recent upgrade at the SDMB headquarters from hamsters to capybaras, I certainly hope that we don't end up with an increased fee to cover the cost of capybara replacement every Saturday!!! :eek: :D

drhess
01-28-2007, 03:20 PM
If I had a large freshwater lagoon, I'd be all over having a pet capybara. They are soooo cute! Chicks would completely dig me walking it around town. I'll bet the turds aren't all that bad, being entirely composed of vegetable matter. Do they shit in pellets like a rabbit? Probably chicken egg sized pellets, huh?
Sorry about the hijack, and yes, I'm obsessed with capybaras.

Oh, great. You'll start some pet trend and next thing you know we'll have feral giant rodents running lose in DC and not just the almost-giant ones we have now.

Beware of Doug
01-28-2007, 03:25 PM
I'm anxious to try a capybara stuffed with guinea pigs stuffed with hamsters, the whole seasoned with exotic herbs and spices, then roasted in its own, no doubt plentiful fat.

Reserve your Christmas capyguinster now!

Chronos
01-28-2007, 04:46 PM
Reserve your Christmas capyguinster now!I would recommend nesting some rabbits in there, too, making a capylapiguinster, but most people don't like finding a hare in their food.

Sapo
01-28-2007, 07:31 PM
My sources have failed me. The only additional information I have about this is that the Papal dispensation came on the XVIII century. I know there is a good story about why this dispensation was given, it is just that I cannot find it, right now.

DSYoungEsq
01-28-2007, 09:49 PM
I would recommend nesting some rabbits in there, too, making a capylapiguinster, but most people don't like finding a hare in their food.
Bad Chronos!! No dessert for you!!! :eek:

Darryl Lict
01-29-2007, 12:33 AM
Oh, great. You'll start some pet trend and next thing you know we'll have feral giant rodents running lose in DC and not just the almost-giant ones we have now.

We've got a rat problem here, too. Not as bad as New York City or DC though. I'm pretty sure that capybaras are not nearly as omnivorous at rats so hopefully you won't have a capybara infestation in your kitchen. They probably make a racket though, and it would certainly be a bummer if you had a bunch of them running around in your attic. Those capybara traps would be dangerous, you'd probably have to bait it with a wheel of brie. Maybe you could use a bear trap.

JillGat
01-30-2007, 01:02 PM
I wrote to Emilio Herrera, a capybara expert in Venezuela. He's one of the guys who has stated that the Catholic Church in Venezuela allows consumption of capybaras during Lent, classifying this meat as fish. I asked him for more info. on this and this is what he wrote to me:

Hello, the only reference that I' ve found to
this is in the book by Eduardo López de Ceballos
(Fauna de Venezuela y su conservación, Editorial
Arte, Caracas, 1974) who says that his
"great-great-grand-uncle" the so-called "Padre
Sojo" whose actual name was Pedro Palacios Gil,
went to Italy at the end of the XVIII century and
obtained a "bula" (a Papal decree) from the Pope
whereby it was established that the capybara,
beacuse of its amphibious habits, was legitimate
lenten fare, just like fish. My personal
impression is that it was more because of the
appearance of the salted and dried capybara
chunks of meat in the markets which was (and is)
very similar to that of equally dried fish, made
people believe that it was similar to fish.
Capybara is eaten well away from its natutal
habitat so people who ate it might not have known what it looked like.

sciurophobic
01-30-2007, 01:51 PM
There's abstinence (no meat), and fasting (one regular meal and two small meals not to add up to one regular meal).


Catholics can eat during a fast? Yom Kippur would be so much easier if Judaism defined fasting the same way. (But then we wouldn't have the whitefish platter to look forward to at the break fast.)

Wee Bairn
01-30-2007, 02:32 PM
Then you could eat hot dogs on Friday- certainly no meat in them.

gigi
01-30-2007, 02:51 PM
Catholics can eat during a fast? Yep, if they're 18 to 59, and if they are 14-17 and can handle it. Not required if you have health issues. As mentioned, one regular meal, two small meals not adding up to one meal, and no solid food between meals.

My friend used to fast for Ramadan and I remember us plowing into the Entenmann's doughnuts after it was nighttime.

Chronos
01-30-2007, 03:33 PM
I suspect that every religion which has a concept of fasting (which is probably darned near all of them) defines it a little differently. Judaism does, for instance, allow drinking water during a fast, right? Because Muslims don't allow even that. On the other hand, the Catholic fasts for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are 24 hours, so you won't get a big dinner just after sundown, as you would in Islam or Judaism.

Sapo
01-30-2007, 06:28 PM
I wrote to Emilio Herrera, a capybara expert in Venezuela. He's one of the guys who has stated that the Catholic Church in Venezuela allows consumption of capybaras during Lent, classifying this meat as fish. I asked him for more info. on this and this is what he wrote to me:


I was his student in Ecology class at Uni. He is an awesome guy. I guess I should have written to him instead of to my parish priest. His paper was where I had gotten the additional tidbit about it being on the XVIII century.

Padre Sojo is a very celebrated man in Venezuela. With that additional bit, I can continue to search spanish sites for additional info. Will post results as they pop out.

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