My dad's girlfriend calls herself a vegetarian yet she eats fish and seafood. I see this all over the place, people at the vegetarian health food store who are "hardcore vegetarians" yet eat fish. It seems very egotistical to consider only land animals, like ourselves, as animals. And why do people think fish is considered so much healthier than other meats? Maybe it's all the fish oil buzz (I hear people all the time who think just taking a fish oil capsule or eating a piece of salmon makes them the healthiest person on the planet) or maybe it's because fish is "low-fat". Yesterday I was at Subway and asked for chicken breast and bacon (Subway makes good salads in a pinch)... as soon as I said bacon the woman next to me turned her head and stared at me in horror. However, when people talk about how much they love fish, everyone around stares in awe of how "healthy" they are. Thoughts?
well, i personally think its a bit of cognitive dissonance at work. as mammals, we dont connect emotionally with non-mammals, and i think that for a lot of vegetarians they just dont have the same emotional attachment to a fish as they do to a cute fuzzy with big eyes and "personality". as for feeling pain, its only (im pretty sure) the mollusks that are suspected to not feel pain. i know some vegans who will eat mollusks because of those findings, but others who still see killing a mollusk as "violent".
frankly, i think that first there the emotional disconnect, then people realize how much better they feel incorporating some meat into their diet, and they come up with all sorts of excuses to do it and remain smug. i also think that there is a lot of press about the horrendous conditions in CAFO factories on land, but many people dont realize that farmed fish are kept in equally inhumane and squalid conditions. they just dont care as much. shrug when i was vegan and vegetarian, my rule was "nothing with a face". some say "nothing with a mother", but if course that can be problematic in the plant world, too.
I can only answer from a Catholic perspective. On certain holy days we abstain from meat, it is okay to eat fish. This is because meat (birds and mammals) are warm blooded and fish is cold blooded. Nothing to do with intelligence and feelings of the eaten. By the way, I have an aquarium, and by observing the fish I have concluded they do have personalities and feelings.
My mother is a pescatarian and I was for a while, so this answer is mostly from experience. A lot of the reason people call themselves vegetarians although they eat fish is simply convenience. Most people do not know what a pescatarian is, and some people don't want to go to the bother of explaining it and getting into a long session of the whys and ethical issues etc. Another reason is that when asked to choose a meal for a conference or such it is usually easier to specify the vegetarian option since fish is unlikely to be a menu option. This does cause confusion and actual vegetarians are usually quite annoyed by the results of the confusion. I always specified that I was a pescatarian for that reason, but it could be a pain.
As for the reasons for being a pescatarian vs vegetarian vs complete omnivore they are many and lots are mentioned above. Try to remember that the person next to you shocked by your meaty diet has grown up in a culture that encourages that belief but may be a paleo in the future.
As for bacon (I sense a down vote coming), I question whether it is wise to obtain it from Subway where it is certainly grain fed and full of synthetic crap. Bacon is wonderful and delicious, but does not become a "health food" simply because of being bacon, any more than salmon becomes a healthy food by being fish. (Think farmed Atlantic vs. wild Alaska) On the other hand, some nice pastured bacon broiled on top of an Alaskan salmon steak might be just the thing.
For some reason, people don't seem to think that fish feel anything, which is not true - but I think it's more of an "I can't see their feelings/they aren't warm and fuzzy like most farm animals" type of thing. I did recently read that bivalves like mussels might not have much in terms of sensory perception, but it's pretty obvious that fish and other sea life do.
I was vegetarian for most of my life, and am now pescatarian - I do not consider them the same, though sometimes when around new people, I may revert back to "I am vegetarian" so that I don't have to explain what I do and don't eat and why.
The reason I personally am ok with eating seafood but not other animals from an ethical point of view is because there are more wild-caught options and CAFO treatment is less of an issue. I still try to be aware of environmental impact and check the Monterey Aquarium's Seafood Watch as much as possible. Also try to be aware of mercury levels.
I also eat seafood because I have some health issues and my doctor really wanted me to make sure I was getting enough omega 3.
More of an response to the responders...
Awww - well personally I used to be a hard-core PETA vegetarian... than a slow pescatarian (including fish), although this was all throughout my teens.
The thing is - as the Vegetarian Myth talks about in the first paragraph, is that PETA relies on the assumption that all animals are killed inhumanely, and that grassfed, happy cows do NOT exist (or that all fish come from farms - which are actually pretty awful...). When you take into account that all these people believe they are getting their animals from McDonalds type facilities - it makes a little more sense. And I think inhuman conditions for cows, chickens, etc. are more talked about as opposed to fish.. and obviously, as you said, they are considering them lesser species. I love PETA for some reasons - animal welfare/fur stuff - but their propaganda for vegetarianism makes me reconsider. Eh, to each their own. We'll all be laughing when only the paleo's are left in their hundreds!!
My understanding is that it goes back to the catholic church's definition as it relates to fast days. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasting_and_abstinence_in_the_Roman_Catholic_Church
Interestingly, the capybara, despite being the largest rodent in the world and therefore a mammal, is classified as fish under these rules and may be eaten on fridays during lent. Beavers are similarly classified.
The reason I was given by a veggie friend was: "fish and shellfish have small brains and didn't know what was going on when they die. Likewise, they don't feel pain." So that's why she eats seafood.
I have my own thoughts/response to that. But that's what I've been told. Would love to know the "real" reason why it's ok with them...
Well, I see this an opportunity for me to copy and paste an answer I submitted two weeks ago on another post. It's a HOOT!
Please read it carefully... (it is from the URL at the end of the paste.)
Join PERV -
People for the Ethical Regard of Vegetables
How would you like to be separated from your nether regions, plunged into a boiling cauldron of oil or water and then eaten?
How would you like to have your genitalia cut off and used to decorate churches, houses and the bosoms of human females?
How would you like to have your unborn children put in a mill and ground up over the corpses of related species?
*How would you like to have your head cut off so that people can play football on you?
*And it’s a matter of your own health. Do you realise that leguminous vegetables such as peas and beans fix deadly nitrogen from the air, which could give you cancer?
Act now! Send a large cheque to the Number Watch Cayman Island account to become a member of PERV. In return you will receive a free catalogue of synthetised proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and fibre (no fat, of course) with price list. Leave the flowers where they are in the field. You know it makes scents.