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May 2016

The Bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-18 12:59
Subject: Sin and vegetarianism
Security: Public
There seem to be a tradition that although vegetarians may not eat beef, port pork, chicken and other such products of mammals and birds, that they can still eat fish. (Whether they can eat alligator, turtle, locusts, snails or other creatures is not something I've yet found out.) Like many others, I've often wondered about the origin of this, since it seems a bit weird, but the other evening, I think I encountered a plausible reason.

It appears that it comes down to the Christian tradition of fasting. Supposedly, the reason for 'not eating meat' during Lent, or on a Friday, or if you're a monk or the like, is that eating meat is indirectly partaking of the original sin. Animals reproduce by breeding, and in the case of mammals and birds, breeding involves copulation. If copulation is sinful, then the product of copulation - even that of animals - is also to some extent sinful, and therefore their flesh should be avoided.

Fish, on the other hand, do not copulate. Therefore, the flesh of fish is not the product of sin. And thus it is permitted to eat fish.

Okay ...

(Though whoever categorised whales as fish never went out with the sperm whalers. And also not all piscine species use the eggs-and-milt approach.)

Edit: for silly typo - thanks Feòrag.
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User: perdita_fysh
Date: 2010-02-18 15:26 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thanks for the explanation, I'd often wondered where that weirdness came from. Particularly as I know many vegetarians and not one of them eats fish or could fathom why one might be a vegetarian and think that it was ok to make an exception for fish!
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-18 15:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Yeah. It seems to be some sort of folk memory in action, rather than a reflection of what (most) modern vegetarians actually do.

I suspect that it's even more annoying for vegetarians being offered fish as 'yes dear, I know you're a vegetarian, this is only fish'.
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Sion: angel
User: sion_a
Date: 2010-02-18 16:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
We had one company meal where, because the "vegetarian" organising it ate fish, and indeed the majority of "vegetarians" in the company also ate fish, the "vegetarian" option was distinctly fishy, and the real vegetarians had to make a special request for vegan.

I was safely back to being an omnivore by then, but I felt a sympathetic rage on behalf of the real vegetarians.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-18 16:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh boy. Not cool. Not cool at all.

I wonder what proportion of soi-disant vegetarians are actually piscivorous.
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