Explain pescatarianism to me

So I was watching an early-middle round of the recently-concluded season of Hell’s Kitchen (it’s weirdly grown on me, though it’s gotten a bit stale…more on this some other time). There were three guest judges brought in, one of whom said she was a pescatarian. Apparently, that’s the term for someone who doesn’t eat meat, in the traditional sense of the word, but does eat fish and other seafood, as well as food products derived from animals such as milk.

At first, I, like many others, thought that a “vegetarian” eating fish was a cheap cop-out. Preparing seafood involves killing living creatures; the fact that they live in water and don’t have legs doesn’t change this fact. The websites I could find apparently agree, since none of them presents any kind of ethical or moral issue related to pescatarianism. (NaturalNews.com cites the deplorable conditions of the typical slaughterhouse but waffles on the issue of whether large-scale hunting of sea animals is any better.)

From what I could find, it’s intended to be a transition to vegetarianism. It’s not strictly a health issue (it’s perfectly possible to include, say, chicken or turkey in a low-fat diet), but health is definitely the major concern. Some treat it as simply a diet plan, which may or may not be effective, like any other diet plan. In any case, pescatarians do seem to be serious about it (the judge I mentioned flatly refused a dish after finding out it had bacon in it).

Whaddya think? How valid is this, as a plan, as a way of eating? Does it really work as a transition?

I guess it would work okay if your objection is eating mammals and birds.

Everyone draws their own lines. I don’t eat veal, for example.

What did the fish and sea creatures ever do to get singled out by these folks?

It’s just like any other diet label. *Ova-lacto-*vegetarians (I believe that’s the term) consume dairy and egg products; there are countless others. I think most diets that reduce the amount of animal products in one’s diet, rather than eliminating them off the bat altogether, would work as transitioning tools. This one seems particularly liberal, so I think it would be a good starting point for someone who was serious about eventually becoming completely vegetarian (or vegan).

There’s also the argument that raising animals for food is inefficient, and that eating farm animals instead of just eating grains and vegetables directly is using too many resources (here’s a link from PETA, but I’ve heard this from other sources.) Fish may be bad for the environment in some ways, but not for that particular reason.

Also, some people think that fish is “healthy” while other animals are not.

There may be a religious-cultural element to it - in Judaism, fish does not count as meat, and can be eaten along with dairy. Hence, bagels with lox and cream cheese. A Jewish pescatarian can have a very easy time maintaining their diet, by only eating “dairy”.

I have a 13 year old who insisted last year on becoming vegetarian. I felt she was too young and didn’t really like enough vegetables to sustain a strict vegetarian diet, and I’m not a good enough cook to find adequate protein replacement, so for now, eating fish is the compromise.

Lots of people I know are vegetarians not because they care about the ickle furries but because the thought of eating flesh makes them feel queezy, a problem they generally don’t have with fish.

Also, a diet that includes plenty of fish but excludes meat can be a very healthy diet.

The way you phrase that makes it sound like you don’t agree. Is that so?

Our phylogenetic relationship to other lifeforms basically looks like this:

[plants [fungi [invertebrates [fish [birds [non-primate mammals [primates]]]]]]]

For most people, one of those pairs of brackets will enclose the set “too human-like to be considered food.” For example, most people would rather eat a cow than a gorilla, because we’re much more closely related to gorillas. So it makes more biological sense to say “I don’t eat meat, except for invertebrates and fish” than it does to say “I don’t eat meat, except for cats” or whatever.

I wonder if there are vegetarians who refuse to eat mushrooms because they don’t want to harm their fellow opisthokonts.

I would put companion animals like horses and dogs between primates and non-primates.
I’d also like to add that humans can survive on fallen fruit alone.(Yay! avacardoes)

As a pescatarian, I’d like to explain my personal reasons for the diet.

[li]Natural - you get your protein in a form that humans can definitely digest.[/li][li]Omega 3 - flax/chia seeds don’t give that much of the essential nutrient Omega 3[/li][li]B12 - It’s hard to get on a strict vegetarian diet.[/li][li]Ethical - so many animals die during vegetable/cereal harvesting. Factory mammal farming is monstrous. (okay okay, fish suffer, but it’s the lesser evil)[/li][li]Cheap - Ethically produced meat is a lot more expensive than farmed or caught fish. [/li][li]Convenient - tuna/salmon is often sold in cans, which of course last longer than fresh veg.[/li][li]Sustainable - Farming fish requires a lot less “inputs” than meat farming, and a lot less airtransport than non-boring vegetarianism.[/li][/ul]

I know insecto-vegetarianism has all those advantages, but I don’t have the guts for it.

As laurasiatherians, horses and dogs (and cats) are genetically closer to cows and pigs than they are to humans.

Cladistic diet plans?
Now I’ve heard everything.

I think a lot of people also have the belief that ‘fish don’t feel pain’- I’ve even seen it argued seriously by scientists, though personally I think that’s a pile of old tripe- if they act in every way like they do feel pain, it seems silly to claim they have insufficient development in the cortex to be able to sense pain at all, and more likely that they just don’t detect it in exactly the same way.

I’m arguably a pescatarian, as a half-arsed vegetarian who has been known to eat fish, (as it is quite hard to get a fully adequate diet without fish or meat) but I’m extremely picky about what fish I’ll eat.

  • Only those with minimal or no bycatch (line caught only- trawlers can waste an incredible amount, such that only 25% of the catch in some areas is actually landed- the rest is thrown overboard dead)
  • Only those that breed at an early age (some species can take years to mature; for example orange roughy, which don’t start spawning until they’re 25-30 years old) so stocks can recover properly.
  • Nothing that appears to be endangered; some species should seriously by CITES appendix 1, but there’s been few accurate number surveys, as it can be very difficult to count fish.
  • No farmed fish, as the pollution produced by the farms is a major problem for the only species regularly available farmed here, entire Scottish Lochs have been seriously polluted; if they were set up along more sustainable lines, I’d be fine with it- I just can’t find any that I think are.

I think I’ve eaten fish twice in the last year. I also don’t eat prawns, purely for conservation reasons.
Yes, I probably count as a smelly hippy- why do you ask?

I’m a pescatarian, but the only fish I actually eat are shellfish, which barely count as animals.

I’m also a pescatarian. I used to be a pretty strict vegetarian, but it’s a lot easier to eat out with friends and not piss off the family by allowing fish in your diet. Because of some personal preferences, it also makes it a lot easier for me to get protein. (Also, I just really, really love seafood and I’m not concerned if that makes me a hypocrite.)

There are almost as many reasons for being vegetarian as there are vegetarians. Pescatarianism makes perfect sense in the context of some of those reasons, not so much in others.

Correct. I have a very good friend who, after a year’s sabbatical in Israel about 25 years ago, suddenly became very religious. His wife converted and they were remarried by a rabbi. Then came the question of keeping kosher and his wife rebelled at the two sets of dishes and they became (new word to me) pescatarians, more precisely ovo-lacto-pescatorians. They eat fish (but not shellfish), but no mammals or birds. I am not sure about whether they would eat grasshoppers (which are kosher, although most other insects are not).

This. Vegetarians (or a person on any diet) have no particular obligation to have a perfectly logical and consistant explanation for their food choices to present to strangers at any given moment. Unless they are evangelizing and criticizing others (which only a percentage of vegetarians do) then they have every right in the world to be arbitrary, hypocritical or flighty about their personal choices of what they consume.

Honestly, I think a relatively small percent of vegetarians are 100% vegetarian. The rest have their own parameters. You may not, for example, have a problem with gelatin in processed foods, or with meat stocks. You may be willing to eat Salsa Verde Doritos despite them containing “chicken powder.” Or, you may be pretty much vegetarian but enjoy a huge bloody steak once a year, or indulge your family by eating turkey on Thanksgiving. When I was vegetarian I avoided stocks but made my peace with gelatin, and would gladly order meat a few times a year when I ate at top restaurants.

And that’s not a big deal. Describing yourself as “vegetarian” is usually just an easier way of explaining what is probably a complicated relationship between health, ethics, sustainability and culture. Nobody wants to say before a dinner party “I’m mostly vegetarian, but when I travel in Asia I’ll eat a bit of pork, and I’m fine with meat stock, and I really don’t like factory farmed meat but a bit of fish now and then is fine- but not shellfish…that just squicks me out for personal reasons.” So you just say “I’m vegetarian” and then your hosts know what to serve for dinner.

When I was veggie, I found that chicken and turkey still had more fat content than I was willing to allow in my diet. I also avoided fatty fishes.