To eat or not to eat?
Tis the question. Concerning fish, that is.
In the vegetarian world, fish is, well, a fishy subject. Technically, we shouldn’t eat fish. Fish is a living creature, and we don’t eat those. Secondly, catching our ocean bound friends destroys the sea floor and plenty of other unintentional species that get hoisted up in the net with the tilapia, tuna, shrimp, and mahi mahi that sell so well on the market. These poor little guys don’t get eaten, but instead are often harmed or killed in the sorting process before getting tossed back to the sea.
Another scary thing? Fish farms. Nope, I’m not kidding. We’ve all heard of the horrible abuses and filth of factory farms, and now they’re popping up in fish form. Just like their land-born friends, fish are crammed together so tightly that they rub against each other, and often sport sores and injuries on their sides, fins and tails (among other icky animal welfare issues, which I won’t get into at the moment.)
Right now, almost all of the fish we eat in restaurants and buy in stores are from fish farms. And most of them hail from China’s fish farms, which I’m sure are a beacon of animal welfare and happiness.
Anyways, how does this relate to vegetarians? Oh, yes. Fish are living creatures, and they suffer before ending up on our plates. Yet I’ve met quite a few vegetarians that appear proud of their dietary preferences, but then add, “but I eat fish. Do you?” after a couple beats. One person even told me he’s been a vegetarian for over 30 years (but, alas, he eats fish.)
Technically, fish-eating vegetarians are called Pescetarians. And, of course, the vast majority of vegetarians don’t dine on marine-born mammals.
For the past three years, I’ve been mostly vegetarian – and I loved it. Although I stopped eating animals solely because of health reasons, I’ve fallen headfirst into the battle for animal welfare. What I love most, though, is not supporting the factory farming system. Which is a scary, scary thing!
What breaks my heart about fish, though, is that most people fail to think about eating fish – as if they can’t or don’t suffer. Also, it seems most Americans think that the fish they eat at restaurants or buy at grocery stores were actually fished out of the ocean. Sorry folks, but they probably came from a lovely Chinese fish farm.
To me, fish farms actually freak me out wayyyy more than their land-borne counterparts. The fish don’t just stand or wade in their own excrement, illnesses, and disease – they’re freaking swimming in it. Yuck.
Anyways (sorry this is so long!) the whole point is that I have been eating fish. Which may sound totally crazy-hypocritical, but hear me out: I’ve been catching my own free-swimming fish from the ocean. My fiancé is an avid fisher and spear fisher, and lately, he’s been dragging me along with him. And – I LOVE it.
I don’t like killing fish – but if it’s by my own hand, somehow I’m okay with it. The fish isn’t suffering, isn’t crammed in a filthy tank on some farm, and I’m only taking what I need. I can’t explain it, but living off the land (or in my case, the sea) doesn’t feel wrong.
So that’s what I am now – an educated Pescetarian, that only eats her own fish. I’m not supporting the system, and I’m fully aware and responsible of what ends up on my plate. I know my former fellow vegetarians likely totally, totally disagree with me, but it doesn’t matter. This is my life – and it feels right, to me.
P.S. – Here’s my first fish that I helped catch while diving.