I was primed to think about pescetarianism recently due to Scout’s video (embedded below) about the merits of such a diet.
This post is mostly about pescetarianism as a lifestyle, not pescetarians themselves, but I do want to make one point in relation to such people. The conflation of pescetarianism with vegetarianism — something pescetarians tend to do — is especially irksome. Fish is meat, so a pescetarian is by definition not a vegetarian. Pescetarians seem to want to think of themselves as “vegetarians that eat fish” as if there isn’t already a word for that. I suspect they want some ethical points without doing anything of substance.
Which brings me to my main diatribe against pescetarianism. Perhaps it makes some sense as a diet: meat from land animals is thought by many to be unhealthy, but omega-3s are a necessary part of a balanced diet, and fish and other sea animals are a rich source of it.
But being vegans concerned first and foremost with ethics and environmentalism, pescetarianism just looks like a diet and not a moral stand. The main difference between fish and land animals is that fish don’t have feet. They happen to live in water. This does not make them any less of an animal as, say, a chicken. To make an ethical distinction between a fish and a chicken therefore makes little sense.
In fact, all land animals evolved from fish, but all species continue to evolve nonetheless. We, like cows, pigs, and chickens, came from fish. Some just happened to stay in the water and continue to evolve there. That doesn’t make them any less “animal-like” than those with legs; they still feel pain and wish to stay alive rather than be killed.
Pescetarianism is borne of a misunderstanding of evolution: animals that happen to live in water, save for cute ones like turtles, are seen as not-really-animals in comparison to cows, pigs, and chickens.
From an environmental standpoint, too, pescetarianism is confused. Much of the trash — almost half, in fact — in the ocean is from fishing nets and other related equipment, something we all learned during the great Straw Debate of 2018. Fishing is destroying our oceans, contrary to the environmentally-friendly image many pescetarians wish to paint of their diet.
In the end, pescetarianism is really just a diet; it is not an ethical stance, and it is not an environmentally-friendly choice. It does not deserve its current conflation with vegetarianism — certainly not ethical vegetarianism — and is nothing remotely close to veganism, despite the fact that many will often bring up their pescetarian diet in the context of vegetarianism or veganism.