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November 9, 2012: Pescetarianism

Originally posted on this blog.

Pescetarians (also spelled "Pescatarians") avoid every type of meat except for fish and seafood. Many people all over the world (especially in many Asian countries) mistakenly believe that people who eat fish and seafood are actually vegetarians, when in fact they are not. Before getting into why I think one should not eat fish, I would like to state that I, too, was a pescetarian for about a year before I switched over to vegetarianism.

There are two main reasons why people choose to become pescetarians. Some decide on this type of diet because they donít have the same amount of empathy for fish and other marine animals as they do for cows, pigs, sheep, etc. They feel that fish either donít have feelings, or somehow donít deserve as much respect as other animals do. Others feel that fish, unlike other meat, is too healthy for us to give up. In their view, without fish, we would not be providing our body with the nutrients we require.

The first reason, the lack of empathy for fish, is a common one. When I gave up other types of meat, I didnít give up fish because I just didnít feel as sorry for them as I did for other animals. Now, having developed a deeper empathy, I realize that this way of thinking was wrong. First of all, there is quite a lot of scientific evidence that suggests that fish are, in fact, more intelligent than many of us had previously thought. The fact that they are marine animals and function in a different way than the land animals that we are familiar with should not mislead us. Fish are sentient beings, just like humans, cows, deer, and other animals. This, on an ethical level, should be enough for us to respect them (even if we canít yet empathize with them) and to stop eating them. Besides, this respect can sometimes eventually give rise to empathy, as was the case with me. When I stopped eating fish, I didnít really feel much compassion for them, but with time I started to feel this compassion more, especially when I thought about how so many people who are very conscious about the suffering of other animals seem to disregard the suffering of our marine friends. Another ethical paradox is the fact that many of the same people who would never eat the meat of a dolphin, or a whale, would have no problem eating the meat of a trout, or that of a red snapper. I ask myself, is this a question of size or intelligence? Neither argument is satisfactory, in my opinion, as both are trumped by the respect for sentient life in and of itself, one of the core values of Effaism.

As far as healthy eating is concerned, the case against consuming fish can be argued quite effectively as well. First of all, most of the fish and seafood that is sold in supermarkets is generally not very healthy. Farm raised fish, which accounts for a big percentage of supermarket fish, often has high levels of mercury, and since many fish are given antibiotics (and their environment treated with pesticides) to ensure they donít get sick, any nutrients that you get from them will most likely be offset by the negative side effects of these practices. The truth of the matter is that you can find all the nutrients that you normally get from fish and seafood in a vegetarian or vegan diet. Letís take something that most people think they can only get from fish: Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. In fact, as this article shows, flax seeds combined with a couple of other simple ingredients will provide you with a great meat-free source of these important nutrients. Anyone concerned about losing the positive nutrients provided by fish only has to do a simple Google search in order to find non-meat alternatives to each of these, much like I did above with the Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.

Hopefully, after reading this, youíll consider cutting down on fish and seafood, if not eliminating them completely from your diet. While not as cute and cuddly as baby mammals, as sentient beings, they deserve the right to live as much as any other animal.

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