non-vegetarian vegetarianism

Pesceterians, Frutherians, Flexitarians – to the uninitiated, these words sound like a description of the Allied army from the Star Wars movie.

And when such a person changes his diet towards the predominance of plant foods (for example, refuses meat, but continues to eat fish), he sincerely answers the questions of his friends: “Yes, I became a vegetarian, but sometimes I eat fish, because …”.

This loose and thoughtless use of the term “vegetarian” leads to the fact that shadows in the form of fish heads and chicken legs fall on the philosophy of vegetarianism. The boundaries of the concept are blurred, the meaning of everything for which vegetarians become vegetarians is lost.

And every day there are more and more newly minted “fish-tarians” and “meat-tarians”…

On the other hand, there are many people who do not eat meat out of ideological conviction or on the advice of a doctor, but do not consider themselves vegetarians.

So who are vegetarians and do they eat fish?

The Vegetarian Society, established in Great Britain back in 1847, authoritatively answers this question: “A vegetarian does not eat the meat of animals and birds, both domestic and killed during hunting, fish, shellfish, crustaceans and all products related to the killing of living creatures.” Or more succinctly: “A vegetarian doesn’t eat anything dead.” Which means that vegetarians don’t eat fish.

According to Juliet Gellatley, British animal rights activist and director of Viva!, people who eat fish have no right to call themselves vegetarians. 

If you have already given up the meat of warm-blooded animals and birds, but continue to eat fish and seafood, you are a PESCETARIAN (from the English pescetarian). But it’s still not vegetarian.

Between vegetarians and pescatarians there can be a huge gap in their views on the suffering of living beings. Often the latter refuse the meat of mammals because they do not want to be the cause of their suffering. They believe in the rationality of animals, but fish… “The brain of a fish is simpler, which means that it most likely does not feel pain,” kind people justify themselves by ordering fried trout in a restaurant.

“In reputable scientific journals, you will find quite clear evidence that mammals, in addition to physical pain, can experience fear, stress, feel the approach of something threatening, be horrified and even get mentally traumatized. In fish, emotions are not as pronounced, but there is a lot of evidence that fish also experience fear and pain. Anyone who does not want to cause suffering to living beings should stop eating fish,” says Professor Andrew Linzey, Director of the Oxford Center for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, author of Why Animal Suffering Matters. ).

Sometimes people who decide to become vegetarians cannot give up fish, because they believe that it is necessary for maintaining health – especially fatty varieties of fish. In fact, similar beneficial substances can be found in plant foods. For example, flaxseed oil is one of the richest sources of omega-3 fatty acids and does not contain the mercury poisons found in fish.

Are there vegetarian meat eaters?

In 2003, the American Dialectic Society recognized FLEXITARIAN as the most popular word of the year. A flexitarian is a “vegetarian who needs meat.”

Wikipedia defines flexitarianism as follows: “A semi-vegetarian diet consisting of vegetarian food, sometimes including meat. Flexitarians strive to consume as little meat as possible, but they do not completely exclude it from their diet. At the same time, there is no specific amount of meat consumed to classify a flexitarian.”

This direction of “semi-vegetarianism” is often criticized by vegetarians themselves, as it contradicts their philosophy. According to Juliet Gellatly, the concept of “flexitarianism” is completely meaningless. 

How then to call a person who has already embarked on the path of reducing the consumption of lethal food, but has not yet become a vegetarian?

Western marketers have already taken care of this: 

Meat-reducer – literally “reducing meat” – a person who reduces the amount of meat food in his diet. For example, in the UK, according to research, 23% of the population belongs to the “meat-reducer” group. The reasons are usually medical indications, as well as indifference to environmental problems. Livestock farms emit methane, which is 23 times more damaging to the earth’s atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Meat-avoider – literally “avoiding meat” – a person who tries, if possible, not to eat meat at all, but sometimes he does not succeed. 10% of the UK population belongs to the “meat-avoider” group, they, as a rule, already share the ideology of vegetarianism.

“More than a quarter of respondents [in the UK] say they eat less meat now than they did five years ago. We can observe changes in the diet of the population. One third of our organization’s members are people who try to reduce the amount of meat in their diet. Many start by cutting out red meat to improve their health, then stop eating white meat, fish, and so on. And although these changes are initially caused rather by personal considerations, over time these people can be imbued with the philosophy of vegetarianism,” says Juliet Gellatly.

Vegetarian and pseudo-vegetarian diets

To figure out once and for all who is a vegetarian and who is not … let’s look at Wikipedia!

Vegetarianism, in which there is absolutely NO KILLING FOOD, includes:

  • Classical vegetarianism – in addition to plant foods, dairy products and honey are allowed. Vegetarians who consume dairy products are also called lacto-vegetarians.
  • Ovo-vegetarian – plant foods, eggs, honey, but no dairy products.
  • Veganism – only plant food (no eggs and dairy products, but sometimes honey is allowed). Often vegans refuse everything that is made using animal products (soap, clothing made from fur and leather, wool, etc.).
  • Fruitarianism – only the fruits of plants, usually raw (fruits, berries, fruit vegetables, nuts, seeds). Careful attitude not only to animals, but also to plants (without eggs, dairy products, honey).
  • Vegetarian/vegan raw food diet – only raw foods are eaten. 

The following diets are NOT vegetarian as they allow killer foods, although their amounts may be limited:

  • Pescatarianism and Pollotarianism – Avoiding red meat but eating fish and seafood (Pescatarianism) and/or poultry (Pollotarianism)
  • Flexitarianism is the moderate or extremely rare consumption of meat, poultry, fish, and seafood. 
  • Omnivorous raw food diet – eating only raw or very short heat-treated foods, including meat, fish, etc.

If you delve into the whole variety of diets, you can find many sub-varieties and new sub-sub-subdivisions with even more outlandish names. It is not surprising that people who have changed their attitude towards meat to “less, less or no meat” prefer to simply and succinctly call themselves “vegetarians.” This is more convenient than explaining to your great-aunt for a long time why you won’t eat her cutlets, and making excuses so that she doesn’t get offended. 

The fact that a person has already embarked on the path of conscious and healthier eating is much more important than the term that he calls himself.

So let’s be more tolerant of each other, no matter what philosophy of nutrition we adhere to. Because, according to the Bible, “it is not what goes into a man’s mouth that makes him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth makes him unclean. (Gospel of Matthew, ch.15)

Author: Maryna Usenko

Based on the article “The rise of the non-veggie vegetarian” by Finlo Rohrer, BBC News Magazine

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