Little to nothing broke my heart like learning that the trifecta of Thai curries — red, yellow and green — all have animal byproducts, predominantly shrimp paste in the curry paste itself (red: shrimp paste; yellow: fish sauce or shrimp paste; green: shrimp paste). Knowing this, I had to either make it myself so it’s truly vegetarian-friendly, or ditch one of my favorite meals (genre of foods?).
This may come as a surprise because one of the questions I am asked most frequently after telling people I’m a vegetarian is whether or not I still eat fish.
Folks. I don’t mean to get snarky here, but to sample from The Vegetarian Society:
- Fish: cold-blooded, water-dwelling animal
- Vegetarian: someone who doesn’t eat animals
I love nothing more than a common sense approach to most situations. So by the above logic, wouldn’t you say that eating fish and/or seafood discounts one’s vegetarian efforts? I would.
Do fish suffer?
Thickening the stew, Stephanie Ernst over on Animals | Change.org published a nice post highlighting Peter Singer and Tyler Cowen’s debate whether or not fish suffer and whether vegetarians should eat them. In discussing their arguments, Ernst agrees with Singer that fish do suffer:
“And for the record, because Cowen brought it up, let’s talk definitions: someone who eats fish is not just “not a pure vegetarian.” That person is simply not a vegetarian at all. Pescatarians eat and condone the intentional killing of fish, yes. But vegetarians (and, obviously, vegans) do not. Fish are feeling animals, not plants; living in a watery world rather than on land does not strip them of their animal status, their capacity for suffering, or their desire to live.”
Which begs the question, can fish feel pain? According to Michael Agger’s post last year over on Slate, “Frying Nemo: Can Fish Feel Pain?” a study proved that yes, fish can feel pain and react to it as much as humans do.
We’ve established that fish are animals and feel pain. So remind me again how a vegetarian can eat fish and still consider themselves vegetarian?
People become vegetarian for all sorts of reasons, so I’m not here to play vegetarian police and call someone out for not being authentic enough–elitism isn’t my style and tends to be the very reason most people have grudges against vegetarians and vegans in the first place. I will say that if you eat fish, or any other seafood, please call yourself a pescatarian. As for me, no, I do not eat fish or any other seafood.
Like they say in Finding Nemo, fish are our friends not food.