By Jolinda Hackett
January 30, 2017.
Is Fish Vegetarian? If I’m a Vegetarian, Can I Eat Fish?
There are many misconceptions about what a vegetarian diet is and isn’t, and what a vegetarian diet includes and what is does not. You may have a friend who says they are vegetarian and then you see them wolfing down a bucket of fried chicken, or you may have a waiter bring you the seafood special when you ask for a vegetarian meal.
A vegetarian, however, does not eat chicken, and a vegetarian diet certainly doesn’t include the seafood special.
Some vegetarians eat marshmallows, not bothered by the small amount of gelatin in them because, well, it’s gelatin and not meat. And I’ve known plenty of vegetarians who are happy to pick the pepperonis off their pizza rather than insist on a vegetarian pizza, or buying a ramen noodle packet and throwing away the seasoning rather than buying vegetarian ramen, and some people are ok with an otherwise vegetarian soup which may be cooked with beef broth.
After all, they’re not actually eating the meat or the bones the broth was cooked with, just the broth.
That is to say, there are plenty of gray areas when it comes to what is and what isn’t vegetarian. However, eating the flesh of any animal is never considered to be vegetarian. And yes, that includes the flesh of dead fish.
Just so we’re 100% clear: No, fish is not vegetarian. Please do not cook fish for your vegetarian friends, and if you work at a restaurant, please do not offer to bring fish to a customer who says they are vegetarian. Because fish of any kind, just like the meat of other animals is not vegetarian. Fish is not vegetarian, shrimp is not vegetarian, lobster and crabs are not vegetarian, and eating any kind of animal which lives in the sea is not vegetarian.
So, Can I Eat Fish If I’m Vegetarian?
I’ve been a vegetarian for over 20 years, and I CAN eat whatever I want to. I can eat hamburgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day if I want to. Sure, I can. But do I want to? No. Because I’m vegetarian, and I don’t want to eat meat. I choose not to eat hamburgers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day because I don’t want to. I don’t want to eat hamburgers at all, or fish either. I have reasons that I don’t want to eat animals of any kind, and that’s why I’m a vegetarian.
If you’re a vegetarian who wants to eat fish, you may want to consider why you want to eat fish and why you want to be a vegetarian. Which list of reasons is more important to you?
Still confused about whether or not vegetarians can eat fish? Consider this. A triangle, by definition, has three sides. No one, no matter how hard they try, can possibly make a 4-sided triangle. In the same way that one cannot make a 4-sided triangle, you cannot be a meat-eating vegetarian by a simple definition of terms, and you cannot be a fish-eating vegetarian because no, fish is not vegetarian. It should go without saying that fish is also not vegan.
Can I call myself a vegetarian if I do decide to eat hamburgers every day? You can call yourself whatever you want, just like a four-sided shape can call itself a triangle all it wants. But that doesn’t change the fact that a four-sided triangle is not a triangle. It is a square. And similarly, a fish-eating vegetarian is not a vegetarian.
And that, my friends, is what fish-eating vegetarians and four-sided triangles have in common: they cannot and do not logically exist. Period.
“I’m a Vegetarian, But…”
There are, indeed, many people who say “I’m a vegetarian, but….”. They may say, “I’m a vegetarian but I eat fish.” Or chicken. Or bacon. Or whatever. None of their personal exceptions changes the fact that a vegetarian, by definition, does not eat fish, or chicken or bacon.
You can be a pescetarian. You can be a flexitarian (which isn’t really a thing at all), and you may prefer eating vegetarian meals (and anyone who cares about the environment, global warming and animals is glad that you do). But you cannot be a four-sided triangle.