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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: 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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