In the transition to a vegetarian diet, fish is almost always the last thing eliminated by aspiring vegetarians. For some odd reason, fish seem to be the least objectionable item among the flesh foods.
As a vegetarian, I’ve noticed that the question most commonly posed to me is “Do you eat fish?” I usually just say “Is a fish a vegetable?”.
In the transition to a vegetarian diet, fish is almost always the last thing eliminated by aspiring vegetarians. For some odd reason, fish seem to be the least objectionable item among the flesh foods (maybe it’s because people don’t find them that cute). Nowadays, due to the selective attitude people tend to have about animals (be it a pet poodle wearing a cow-leather collar and eating lamb niblets or an anti-vivisection activist eating a burger), fish don’t really stand much of a chance in a world of “survival of the cutest”.
On top of not being all that cuddly to humans, fish have several other physical disadvantages. Firstly, fish have been pushed to the mainstream as being healthy to eat. Fish is low in fat. Populations with ample fish in their diets have a lower instance of heart disease. Some fish oils are even supposed to reverse heart disease. So fish is good for me, right?
Environmentally speaking, fishing doesn’t seem to be all that bad either. Fishing doesn’t cause soil erosion. It doesn’t deplete the groundwater supply. No forests were cut down to allow fish to graze. Fishing’s harmless, isn’t it?
Hey- and isn’t the main ethical problem of eating animals the suffering involved in factory farming- where creatures are mutilated and overcrowded in total filth? Fish, on the other hand, live out their entire lives in complete freedom, only being killed at the end. Isn’t eating a fish much better?
…fish is almost always the last thing eliminated by aspiring vegetarians.
So just what is so objectionable about eating fish? Let’s begin with health.
The popular argument that fish is low-fat is true. My tennis shoe is also low in fat- should I eat my shoes? Probably not.
Currently, there is a myth afloat that says we “need” way more protein than we truly need. High-protein diets are now being linked to osteoporosis and loss of calcium from the bones. Not only does calcium excretion increase as protein consumption increases (thus resulting in negative calcium balance) calcium excretion also increases as the kind of protein shifts from vegetable to animal protein. The Inuit, for example, take in 2500 milligrams of calcium each day in the form of fish bones, and suffer from osteoporosis more severely than any other North Americans. This is a direct consequence of their fish-centered diet.
Secondly, high-protein diets are strongly associated with kidney disease. Such diets can considerably reduce the kidneys’ ability to function properly. There is also a direct correlation between the consumption of animal protein and kidney stones.
Thirdly, high-protein diets are a leading dietary variable connected with lymphomas, kidney cancer, stomach cancer, and colon cancer.
Fish contains absolutely no fibre, thus compounding all problems (ranging from constipation to colon cancer) connected with a lack of fibre. Fish is also high in cholesterol. In fact, in terms of calories consumed, fish has about twice the amount of cholesterol of pork or beef. (Some other seafood such as shrimp, lobster, and crab- contain even more cholesterol).
Fish oils have been popularized as a source of essential fatty acids. All of these EFA’s can be found however, in cholesterol-free alternatives like flax-seed oil and hemp-seed oil. There is absolutely no need to consume fish oil.
…EFA’s can be found however, in cholesterol-free alternatives like flax-seed oil and hemp-seed oil. There is absolutely no need to consume fish oil.
Fishing and the Environment
Are there environmental effects of fishing? Or shall I say overfishing. Most definitely. Fishing has devastating effects on the marine environment.
Commercial fleets regularly exceed the ocean’s ecological limits. As fishery management institutions fall behind the rapid technological advancements made by the fishing industry, overexploitation is now the rule- rather than the exception.
For the past several years, the commercial fishers have been using enormous trawlers which mold to the shape of the ocean’s floor as they smoothe along. As they go, these trawlers pick up everything in their path, leaving absolutely no life behind to revive the ecosystem. In just one year, North Pacific trawlers dumped overboard and wasted more than 264 million kilogrammes of dead and dying fish because they were the wrong size, sex, or species. This is a regular occurrence.
Out of all fish caught and brought to market to sell for human consumption, it is estimated that more than half of these fish rot. The truth is, we are fishing so much that there is no market for the excessive amount being vacuumed from the sea.
The practice of factory-fishing is killing the ocean and off-setting it’s ecosystem. Human life as we know it, depends on the healthy functioning of all the Earth’s ecosystems.
The practice of factory-fishing is killing the ocean and off-setting it’s ecosystem.
The Ethics of Fish Killing
The ethics of killing fish are not different from the ethics of killing any other animal. People tend to think that because fish are kept in their natural environment that they suffer less. Therefore, they also believe that it is somehow more ethical to kill them and eat them. However, because an animal suffers less in one aspect of food production- doesn’t mean that it’s all right to inflict suffering on that animal in order to please the tastebuds. Incidentally, fish suffer tremendously when they are caught in a net. While the fish may only flip-flop for a few minutes after being caught, fish can, and often do survive for an hour to several hours, before dying of suffocation. Imagine having your head held under water as you struggle for air. Imagine this lasts for several hours. Fish slowly drown in air.
“Sport” fishing is also intensely painful for fish. Sharp hooks get caught in their mouths and tear into their flesh as the fish struggle for their lives. If a fish happens to swallow the hook (a common occurrence), his innards get cut up as he thrashes about. The fish then slowly bleeds to death from the inside out.
The next time you think fish don’t suffer, think again. When we consume fish- the fish suffer, the environment suffers, and our bodies suffer. We are eating the pain and suffering of another creature. Fishing is a habit that weighs just as heavily upon Mother Nature as it does on the soul inside these bodies.