Everyone is getting excited about all the fish frys in Western New York with the lent season now underway, but why is it ok to eat fish on Fridays when we’re not supposed to eat meat?

I know, I’ve heard it before: Fish isn’t meat. It’s SEAFOOD!

Yeah it’s seafood, but if you ask any vegan or vegetarian, they will happily explain why fish is actually considered to be a meat.

Lucky for you, I’m the latter.

There have been several times that I have gone out to a restaurant in Western New York with a friend, and that friend will tell me, “I made sure there were vegetarian options,” which is appreciated, because as a vegetarian, I never expect that I can find something on the menu that I would eat. However, the “vegetarian options” they refer to are typically items like fish, shrimp, or other seafood-related foods, and those are not vegetarian.

"I've Met Vegetarians That Eat Fish."

People tend to be shocked when they learn that fish is a meat. “I’ve met vegetarians that eat fish.” Well, I have news for you; those are actually called pescatarians. The “pescatarian” diet means that you don’t eat meat but you include fish, and people tend to do this for a variety of reasons. 

One of those reasons is the numerous health benefits that the fish provide. Seafood contains iron, vitamins (like B-12), and a bunch of heart healthy fats, plus people consider it to be easier than being a vegetarian where you don’t eat any meat.

However, even a pescatarian would tell you that fish is considered to be meat. All seafood is still viewed as a source of meat. The reason that pescatarians will eat fish and consider it to be ethical under their dietary restriction is because fish (and other forms of seafood) have nervous systems that are less complex, making it “more ok” (for lack of a better term) to kill fish for food. 

Why Vegetarians Avoid Fish

Vegetarians (and vegans) avoid eating fish because they avoid all forms of meat, and they view fish as a meat source because fish is the flesh of an animal used for food. Fish swim, eat and digest their food, bleed, breathe, and they are alive, so yes, vegetarians tend to consider fish as meat because they are viewed as animals, just like pigs or cows. 

Meat is also made up of an animal’s muscle tissue, and for fish, the muscle is used for swimming movements. Meat also tends to be jointly linked to a high volume of protein, and fish is known for being very high in protein, partly because of those muscles they use frequently to swim and move because all muscles are made of protein.

So when a vegetarian or a vegan decline an invite to your favorite fish fry, try not to take it personally. We don’t expect you to follow our diet, but we hope you try to at least understand.

If That's True, Why Do We Eat Fish?

Now you may be wondering, “Why can I (religiously) eat fish on Fridays if it’s considered meat?”

Ultimately it depends on your definition of meat. 

According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the abstinence laws consider meat to be something that comes only from animals that live on land, which would include, cows, pigs, chickens, etc. They tend to put fish into a separate category of meat due to their different habitat. Not only that, fish are also considered to be cold-blooded animals, whereas the other animals listed above are warm-blooded, which allows that clear separation between fish and other animals.

So don’t be afraid to have fun on your Friday Fish Frys! Just don’t give us a hard time for not eating fish with you.

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