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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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Cassandra
User: sesquipedality
Date: 2010-02-19 08:00 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You are incorrect. Vegetarians do not eat fish. Or rabbit. Or prawns, or anything else from the animal kingdom.

Some people who do these things may call themselves vegetarians, but calling myself a dwarf wouldn't make it true.

Those people you describe are "people who do not eat meat". If they would like a word, they need to find their own.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-19 08:58 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
You've just done it yourself. You've just defined the flesh of fish as not being meat.
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User: silly_swordsman
Date: 2010-02-19 10:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Originally, 'meat' meant food (the Nordic-language cognate 'mat/mad' still does), and could very well be non-animal-derived foodstuffs too.

Which is why the little christmas pies are filled with "minced meat", i.e. chopped up foodstuffs. Took me ages before I dared try one, as I found the idea of eating something non-refrigerated with meat (as in "animal flesh") in it was rather off-putting.

So not only is the flesh of fish (and birds, molluscs, gastropods, arachnids, insects, crustaceans and what have you) meat, but it used to be that apples, cabbages, tubers, and various fungi were meat, too.
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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-19 11:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Christmas mince pies can be unsafe for vegetarians, since the traditional recipes contained suet.

It appears that originally the mincemeat content literally was minced meat with spices and dried fruit, but over the years, the muscle meat first disappeared. In recent years the suet has also tended to be removed on the principle that if there is a vegetarian substitute that works as well as animal fat for a food ingredient, it's better to use that in mass produced stuff.
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User: silly_swordsman
Date: 2010-02-19 11:25 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Oh, that's neat. So the meat in the mince pies used to mean "animal flesh", but it has now (in that particular instance) evolved back into its original "foodstuff" meaning.

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The Bellinghman
User: bellinghman
Date: 2010-02-19 11:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I believe so, yes.

It was a matter of great confusion to me as a child, since by then the meat had long since disappeared - I think it went in the Victorian era - but the name had stuck. Why, I wanted to know, did mince pies not have mince in them?

As for the meat == food, I seem to recall that the King James Bible does indeed have that usage, but I'm not sure where, and it may be that I'm thinking of Shakespeare or, indeed, something entirely different.
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