This Is Why “Just Eating Fish” Doesn’t Make You a Vegetarian

We hear it all the time: I’m a vegetarian, but I eat fish. Let’s be clear. Fish are not vegetables, and eating fish is eating meat.

According to Webster’s dictionary, a vegetarian is “a person who does not eat meat: someone whose diet consists wholly of vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, and sometimes eggs or dairy products. By definition, a vegetarian does not eat any animal flesh, fish flesh included.

While the words vegan and vegetarian can be easily misconstrued—in certain contexts vegetarian describes a 100 percent plant-based diet and in others includes dairy and eggs—a vegetarian diet never includes fish.

Those who consume seafood but no land animals are known as pescetarians, not vegetarians.

Some people switch to a vegetarian diet by slowly cutting back on animal products. For a while, they may continue consuming fish. But this should definitely not be an end goal—especially if your decision is based on withdrawing your support of industries that exploit and hurt animals.

There’s no nice way to put this: Eating fish is incredibly cruel.

Scientists worldwide have demonstrated that fish and other animals feel pain and are capable of suffering. Fish are even similar to dogs, cats, and other animals in the way they feel pleasure.

Like pigs, cows, and chickens, fish killed for meat suffer immensely. A 2011 Mercy For Animals undercover investigation at a fish slaughter facility uncovered fish being skinned alive. As the fish gasped for oxygen, their skin was ripped off with pliers. They flailed and fought to escape the workers’ knives.

Watch the horror for yourself:

Vegetarian diets consist of plants, not animal flesh. Fish are not plants; they’re living, breathing animals. And going vegan, or 100 percent vegetarian, means eating no animal products whatsoever.

The best thing we can do to withdraw our support from the cruel, unsustainable, and unhealthy fishing industry is to leave fish off our plates and switch to a compassionate vegan diet.

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