Why do vegetarians eat fish?

I was reading Shogun recently and noted that (according to the author) the Japanese, being Buddhist, did not eat meat. Much is made of their disgust at the Europeans for their filthy carnivorous habits. Yet they had no problems eating fish.

This reminded me of how Catholics are not supposed to eat meat on Fridays, but fish instead.

So why is fish not considered meat? Are fish lesser creatures that one can consume with impunity, or it simply that people have to get their protein from somewhere?

For the record, Therevadan monks do eat meat - at least I’m pretty sure.

And many, many vegetarians consider fish meat.

Vegetarians dont eat fish. If they eat fish they’re not vegetarian, there’s another word for fish eaters I cannot remember it at this moment.

It was recently proven that fish can feel pain just like animals so it is quite hipocrytical for “vegetarians” to eat fish.

One thing they almost all have in common, though: they will let you hear about the whys and the wherefores, whether you want to or not. Which confirms my suspicion that in most cases it’s less of an honest lifestyle choice than a trendy affectation.

A friend of mine is a veggie and she will eat fish but not meat. Her logic is that she will only eat things that she could kill herself. So she has no problem with fish (she fishes as a sport) but could never bring herself to kill a cow, chicken, lamb, etc.

This makes sense to me.


No I think most vegetarians are so because they dont like the idea of killing animals for food. It might be a little bit of a trendy thing but I think the majority of proper vegetarians are genuine.

Fair enough. I must say I think I’d eat less meat if I had to kill it myself. We get things far too easy these days, I mean, we dont even have to get out of our cars to pick up a nice slice of cow in a bun…

One subset of vegetarians do so because of the health benefits. For them, it makes sense to remove red meat and chicken from their diet, but to continue to eat fish occasionally. You may not consider them vegetarians, but they consider themselves so.

I think that bromells assumes that anyone who isn’t overly vocal about their diet is not a vegetarian. This is something of a self-fulfilling assumption.

But they’re not!!! God I hate that, fair enough just eat fish for health reasons, but why claim to be vegetarian when you blatantly are not!!! These are the people who annoy me the most.

Vegetarians do not eat fish. They do (or can) eat milk products or eggs. If a person won’t eat meat products of any sort, they’re a vegan. Lots of people eliminate red meat from their diet or health or other reasons, but if they eat fish they’re not vegetarian by definition.

Why do vegetarians eat fish?

Because not everyone uses the same definition of “vegetarian”.

I get this a lot when trying to order meals for business meetings. OK, some says they are vegetarian. Even assuming they don’t eat the flesh of any animal (let’s include fish and insects) I still have to ask the following:

  • are you an ovo-lacto vegetarian? (eats milk and eggs)

  • do you keep kosher? (we all know what “kosher” is, right? Among other things this means the vegetarian food can’t have been prepared on a Sabbath)

  • are you a vegan? (no animal products at all)

  • and (this is relatively recent) are you a fruiterian? (eats only “fruits”, although that’s another term subject to more than one definition)

  • are you a raw foodist? (apparently, this means nothing is ever heated greater than 120 degrees ever, but I’m still not very clear on it)

And this is avoiding the whole issue of the Catholic church not considering fish to be meat, and whether or not shrimp feel pain, and amazingly complex issues around gelatin.

It would certainly be helpful if everyone could agree on terms and definitions, but having been subjected to some amazing fits of temper around food issues I have just resolved to ask and then deal with the answers (no matter how bizarre they seem to me) as best I can.

Why do all the threads about vegetarianism turn into Pit threads?

There’s a perfectly legitimate General Question on the table here which I would like to know the answer to. Yes, there are disagreements whether people who eat fish are “real” vegetarians or not. And differences of why people who describe themselves as vegetarians might eat fish.

But that’s not the question. Catholic dogma proscribes “meat” on Friday (or Friday during Lent) but not fish. Devout Buddhists do not eat “meat” but do eat fish. Clearly, at some point or many points in the development of at least some cultures there came to be a distinction between animals which dwell on land and those which inhabit the sea. Have anthropologists or sociologists posited a reason for this?

My brother’s a fish-eating vegetarian (vegaquarian?) whose rationale has been stated to me as, “fish don’t raise their young.” Hmm…, they send 'em to schools, don’t they?

Really, I won’t attempt to explain or defend it, but that’s one fish-eating otherwise vegetarian’s thought on the subject.

I think there are different types of vegetarian.

Those who do it for religious reasons.
Those who do it for moral reasons.
Those who feel it’s healtheir.

The religious ones are not vegetarians in a strict interpretation of the word. They have a restricted diet (Hindu’s can eat fish, Muslims cannot eat pork but anything else Halal etc…).

True vegetarians will eat no meat, including fish or eggs. There are even extreme vegetarians called vegans who won’t even eat things made from animal derived food (i.e. milk).

They dont.

A vegetarian doesnt eat any meat or any animal products, no fish, no meat, no milk, no eggs, no jello, etc. Anyone who eats these products is no vegetarian.

No. I can’t cite it, but there is a series of definitions that are consensually accepted in all the literature on the subject.

Fruitarian will not eat anything that died. Therefore, only fruits and nuts, etc., which did, or could have, fallen off plants without resulting in the death of that plant.

Vegans will not eat any product or biproduct of any sentient being.

Vegetarians (also called lacto-ovo vegetarians) will not consume any sentient being that has died. They will eat by-products of living sentient beings, i.e. milk or eggs.

Very little of these current definitions have anything to do with ancient religious prescriptions, which ban this or that meat for their own reasons.

A person who eats fish but no other meat is called a pescetarian. I think some people use the term “meat” to refer the flesh of a mammal (beef, pork, lamb, etc). Some so-called “vegetarians” also eat chicken.

So, they won’t eat humans, but cows and pigs are ok?

(Psssst…look up “sentient” in the dictionary)

For what it’s worth, this page of the Catholic Encyclopedia site features the following passage:

“Throughout the Latin Church the law of abstinence prohibits all responsible subjects from indulging in meat diet on duly appointed days. Meat diet comprises the flesh, blood, or marrow of such animals and birds as constitute flesh meat according to the appreciation of intelligent and law-abiding Christians. For this reason the use of fish, vegetables, mollusks, crabs, turtles, frogs, and such-like cold-blooded creatures is not at variance with the law of abstinence. Amphibians are relegated to the category whereunto they bear most striking resemblance.”

In short, the warm-blooded nature of mammals and birds appears to be the key for Catholics.