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Jan 3, 2008 12:34 AM

Vegetarians also forgo seafood?

I just wanted to ask this as I am constantly confused. I know that for most Roman Catholics, red meat is out of the question during Lent on Friday's(the forty days before Easter Sunday).
They do however eat fish and seafood, as they do not consider it meat or at least red meat even though they will still not eat chicken or pork, which is technically also white meat.
Also one year I was preparing Tofu salads at the Tofu Festival, and had fish flakes on hand, along with the miso, sesame, etc dressings, some customers wanted the flakes, but one got upset since they assumed there would be absolutely no animal product around(they were not allergic trust me, they just wanted a 100% vegan option). I could understand this, but then again I ask, I know vegans do not eat any animal byproduct let alone animal product, but what about vegetarians? and what about fish, or even fish flakes. Where does that fall. So far in my experience it's been an individual decision for the most part. Anyone care to weigh in?

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  1. it's my understanding that many people become vegetarian because they love animals and don't feel right about inflicting pain on innocent creatures, or killing anything w/ intelligence. however, fish apparently do not feel pain and have very small brains, so many 'vegetarians' (not vegans) are ok with eating them. i personally am not a vegetarian of any kind, this is just what i've heard.

    2 Replies
      1. re: soypower

        Warning -- I'm being pedantic.

        The problem of defining pain is problematical. In humans the emotional experience of pain takes place in a primitive part of the brain called the cingulate cortex; an area that is part of the limbic system. I am not an expert on fish brains (or, for that matter, a neurologist), but I would be very surprised if a fish brain does not contain something comparable as a protective mechanism.

        The memory of pain, the location of pain -- these are more conscious events, and I have no idea how the fish brain perceives it. Certainly location seems like it would be an important part of a response system. Fish definately respond to damaging stimuli, but it would require a huge degree of anthropomorphism to expect a small fish brain to experience pain the way we do. It would require just as much, however, to suggest that because they don't experience it the same way that we do that they don't perceive it at all.

        Lecture over. There will be a quiz.

    1. I am of the belief that a vegetarian is someone who eats no animals but will eat dairy and eggs. If someone eats just fish and or poultry they are not a vegetarian and I wish they would not say they are.

      I get irritated when I am out for dinner with friends and they start a whole tirade about what they do and do not eat. If they are ordering food in a restaurant they do not need to justify what they are about to eat. If I am not cooking for them I don't care.

      2 Replies
        1. re: smartie

          I have been a vegetarian for around a year and a half and I HATE eating around my grandmother because she acts like I know nothing about what I chosen: A) Her my brother and I went to a diner and she kept telling me chicken is allowed on a vegetarian diet and kept fighting me on it and eventually looked down and rolled her eyes B) Yesterday a my cousins graduation party there was crawfish and shrimp and again said that fish and seafood were allowed on a vegetarian diet even though I told her no then she told me no only vegans don't eat fish and seafood...I made this choice and they all know I am very bright yet treat me like I know nothing

        2. Abstinence from meat flesh (meaning from warm-blooded animals, including birds - not just red meat) for Catholics is not vegetarianism by any stretch. Vegetarians eat no flesh from warm or cold blooded animals, nor insects, et cet. Unlike vegans, who consume no animal products whatsoever, vegetarians may eat products from animals that don't involve killing an animal-kingdom creatures (like eggs, honey, milk, cheese made without animal rennet, et cet.) Sometimes, the moniker ovo-lacto-vegetarian is used. I've heard of pesce-vegetarians but I consider as nonsensical as people thinking they are vegetarians when they won't eat mammal flesh....

          Now, eastern Christians unlike Catholics practice a form of abstinence that may involve: no animal products, oil or wine.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Karl S

            Linguistically, I have heard Catholics refer to going "vegetarian" during seasons of abstinence. As the only "vegetarians" I knew in the Midwest in the 80s were Catholics, pescatarianism and vegetarianism have been roughly the same in my mind. Perhaps the OP grew up in a similar situation.

            1. re: Karl S

              In Eastern Orthodox practice, the abstinence ('fasting') rules closely linked to the liturgical calendar. The strictest is this 'dry' eating - plain bread, fruits, nuts, plain cooked vegetables. Shellfish are allowed in a more commonly practiced level. My guess is that for Greeks living on the shores of the Mediterranean, collecting shellfish from the shore was little different from picking herbs from the garden. (Servants in colonial New England are reputed to have complained about having to eat too much lobster.) Feast days within fasting periods such as Lent are celebrated with the addition of fish. The Lenten fast is approached in two steps, first giving up meat (on Meatfare Sunday), then eggs and dairy on Cheesefare.

              So the link between these traditional forms of religious abstinence, and modern vegetarianism (in all of its varieties) is pretty weak. These religious rules are rather like English spelling rules, more a product of history than a set of rational reasons.


            2. Let me start by saying my GF is a strict vegetarian, I am not, but she has been very good in educating me so anything I state here is secondary information.

              There are many reasons for people being vegetarian, religion, dietary restrictions, health, humanity, are probably the biggest reasons. The religious aspect goes without saying, the diet and health are a personal nature and vary greatly. The one it seems you are addressing would be the humanity issue. This, to my understanding, is my GF's reason for being vegetarian. As someone else mentioned, pain to anything living is a big reason but I disagree it is the main reason. Whether or not something experieinces pain does not eliminate the fact it is killed in order for it to be eaten and that is the key reason for humanitarian vegetarians, they do not want to bring about any living animals end (many true vegetarians, my GF included, will not wear/use any products gathered from animals by way of death, i.e. leather). She does however, eat humanly gathered eggs and dairy.

              Since there are no "vegetarian police" people have the right to call themselves whatever they want but IMO there is no such thing as a vegetarian that eats fish, they are just a person that only eats fish.

              What I find interesting is my GF NEVER EVER preaches to anyone about why you should be a vegetarian but she is constantly having people explain to her why they aren't vegetarian and why it isn't wrong.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Spiritchaser

                "she is constantly having people explain to her why they aren't vegetarian and why it isn't wrong."

                Wow that would be a bit annoying!

                1. re: irishnyc

                  It is, I've have been witness to it more times then I care to remember. Some of my family, even though I love them dearly, are guilty of it.

              2. Once I went camping with my buddy and his new girlfriend- a vegetarian who wasn't shy about preaching the benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. Imagine my surprise when one afternoon as we were taking a drive through town, she directed the driver to pull into a McDonalds- I thought that she just needed to use the facility, but she came out with (and began eating) a bag of Chicken McNuggets!

                Guess some animals are more sacred than others!

                Anyway, she is now and will forever be known as our friend "McVegan"!

                9 Replies
                1. re: Clarkafella

                  I've encountered people who called themselves "vegetarian" because they didn't eat red meat but ate chicken and seafood. In my view, a vegetarian doesn't eat the flesh of any animal.

                  I'm curious as to vegetarian's view of cheese. I've had meals with many vegetarians (who won't have any fish, red meat, white meat) who don't discriminate between cheeses -- those made with animal rennet and those made with not. Do most vegetarians view cheese as being universally OK?

                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    Someone that knowingly eats cheese made with animal rennnet is not a vegetarian. Heck, they need to modify even what they might believe to be true -- they are a lacto vegetarian. Like wise, modifiers are needed for people that eat yogurt with gelatin, or soups made with chicken stock.

                    Why so definitive in my comments? The need to commuicate.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      I think many beginning vegetarians just don't know how many foods are made - what contains gelatin or even what rennet or gelatin is. How many people - veg or now - know that the sodium tallowate in their soap is made from rendered beef fat (tallow). You have to read a lot of labels -- when I was a veg, I could eat Hydrox (made with shortening) but not Oreos (then containing some lard or tallow). It's a learning process.

                      BTW, I wouldn't eat anything with a backbone. I figured that I could kill a silverfish in the bathroom, and that didn't seem very far from shrimp.

                      1. re: heatherkay

                        I'm not sure if this is just for beginning vegetarians. The vegetarians I'm talking about have been doing this for some time. They're the type who will order tofu and vegetable curry in a Thai restaurant without asking if it's prepared with fish sauce. I think it's great that you're conscientious about reading labels but not everybody is that way.

                        I'm also wondering if there are some people who would just rather not know because they enjoy eating the food too much and would be devastated if it conflicted with their beliefs. My ex-bf (who refused to eat mammal meats) and I used to order Vietnamese "crab" spring rolls. By the third time we ate it, I mentioned that I thought there was pork in it -- because you just couldn't sell 6 crab spring rolls for $6 and it also looked like there was pork in it. Instead of my ex being grateful that I pointed this out, he was angry at me for telling him that there may be pork because he wouldn't be able to eat it anymore. So unless they ask, I just keep my mouth shut if I see somebody doing something like that.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          Yeah - I was living in San Antonio when I was a veg. Lots of beans and tortilla fortified with "Vitamin L." I have to admit that sometimes I used the don't-ask-don't-tell method to get through a meal.

                        2. re: heatherkay

                          Ditto on the Hydrox v. Oreos.

                          When I was a vegetarian I became expert at reading food labels. I could pick up a can or box and just glance at the long list of ingredients and words like BEEF FAT, TALLOW, CHICKEN STOCK, would just leap right out at me. Apparently my only talent in life is being able to find the word GELATIN on the ingredients list on a cup of yogurt in 2 seconds or less.

                        3. re: Miss Needle

                          I do agree that the terms vegetarian and vegan are a bit different from traditional religious diets. I had an older aunt who was a devout Roman Catholic and on certain "feast" days and for one saint or another, or Lent, there were rules about what you could eat sometimes there was fasting, but other times you were just supposed to not eat anything that was passed over a fire or heat so on those days all they ate were raw fruit, raw vegetables, virgin(unpasteurized) honey, unpasteurized milk, and cheese made from unpasteurized milk with animal rennet(which they made themselves). Any meat was also excluded, as was bread of any kind since it was baked. I always found this curious, and a little strange as well as the perplexing rules on seafood during the Lenten festivals. Thanks for the vegan/vegetarian distinctions, I was already aware of the principal tenets, but vegetarians(so called) and religious "vegetarians"(also so called) never strictly stayed off of any animal product or byproduct in the strictest form (of all stripes). Thanks Karl S.

                          1. re: b0ardkn0t

                            Are you sure she was Roman Catholic and not Roman Orthodox? I've never heard of any such rule concerning fire/heat, and neither has my husband, and between us we have 32 years of Catholic school.

                            1. re: irishnyc

                              Roman Catholic, like I said they are heavy on the religion (some were catechists)