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But I Only Eat Fish …

During Lenten season, those of us who observe the tradition spend the week preparing achoose what we will deny ourselves for the next 40 days. On Friday, some believers also abstain from the consumption of meat from mammals and fowl. However, many of these individuals continue to eat fish, despite the fact that these animals feel pain, that farming them adversely affects the environment, and that ingesting them is actually harmful to humans. For a long time, I myself didn’t understand the terrible repercussions of consuming fish and was a self-proclaimed “pescetarian” for two years before I learned the truth and went vegan.

Indeed, research has shown that fish do feel pain. According to Dr. Donald Broom, animal welfare advisor to the British government, “Anatomically, physiologically, and biologically, the pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals.” Fish have fully developed brains and nervous systems and very sensitive mouths. Fish use their tongues and mouths as humans might use their hands—to catch or gather food, build nests, and even hide their offspring from danger. Fish can also suffer from fear and anticipation of physical pain. An Australian study found that when fish are chased, confined, or otherwise threatened, they react as humans do to stress: with increased heart and breathing rates and a burst of adrenalin. Like any other animal, fish feel pain and have a will to survive.

Commercial fishing adversely affects the environment. In fact, it’s wreaking havoc on our oceans. As a result of commercial fishing, 90 percent of large fish populations have been exterminated in the past 50 years. Many commercial fishing vessels practice bottom-trawling in order to catch sea animals who live near, on, or under the sea floor, such as flounder, cod, grouper, shrimp, and scallops. Scientists say that the destruction caused by bottom-trawling is similar to that caused by clear-cutting old forests, only on a far greater scale. Elliot Norse, president of the Marine Conservation Biology Institute, says, “Scientists find that bottom-trawling is the largest disturbance to the world’s sea floor and possibly the largest human-caused disturbance to the biosphere.”

The consumption of fish flesh is also harmful to humans. Both wild and farmed fish live in increasingly polluted waters, and their flesh rapidly accumulates high levels of dangerous toxins. The most prominent of these are polychlorinated biphenals (PCB) and mercury, which can harm the brain of anyone who eats them. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that fish can accumulate thousands of times the level of cancer-causing PCBs found in the water in which they live. And according to The New England Journal of Medicine, fish “are the main if not the only source of methyl mercury,” a substance that has been linked to cardiovascular disease, fetal brain damage, blindness, deafness, and problems with motor skills, language, and attention span. As if all that weren’t enough to make your stomach turn, remember that seafood is also the number one cause of food poisoning in the United States!

During Lent this year, consider all the dangers associated with the consumption of fish. When you’re deciding what to eat on Fridays, think about the environment, your health, and, of course, fish! As you plan your next meal, ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” He wouldn’t approve of modern fishing practices. So please extend the same compassion to fish that you would to other animals and forgo the seafood.

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  • Gianna says:

    I’m sorry, I understand the purpose of this article, but seriously, a vegan’s/vegetarian’s best way to argument their views is always guilt tripping people, which I find this rather irritating and unprofessional. I understand that the animals suffer, including the fish, but you can’t just demand of people to change their lifestyle overnight. Quitting meat is not something that happens quickly, it takes a long time, and frankly, only financially well off people can afford to lead a purely vegan lifestyle. It’s ignorant to expect of people to also lead a vegan lifestyle without taking into consideration their financial situation. I’ve been trying to quit meat for quite some time, and finally am able to just eat fish and chicken sometime (in the form of broth). I simply cannot live without meat at all. I tried, but just couldn’t go past 2 weeks without getting really weak and sick. I can’t afford to buy all those rare and hard to find expensive seeds and wholesome grains and bio oils and such. I can only afford the basic vegetables out there. It was a drag to even buy veggies every day to compensate my lack of meat. I do eat considerably less meat now than I used to and, it took me about 2.5 years to get to this level. It takes a lot of time and perseverence and patience to change one’s lifestyle so drastically. I do feel great and look great and aim to one day to be able to live without meat and eggs completely (I gave up on dairy products such as butter/cheese/milk/yoghurts and other. Some people can do this and many simply cannot. Don’t judge and stop guilt tripping people. It’s okay to bring awarness to this, obviously, but somehow, every time I read a PETA article, I get this guilt tripping attitude from them like ”if you eat this and that, you’re a horrible person and you contribute to this and that. You need to change”. Really? Is that necessary?

  • A.M says:

    I’m a pescetarian and i eat ONLY sustainable species. I believe in the food chain, but I still support ocean conservation, spread the word that over fishing is destroying our oceans, and encourage people do do the same. I think people are meant to eat fish and seafood, but in moderation. Our species has been doing it for millions of years, and it’s and important part of our diet.
    Also, on another note, no matter what humans do, an animal will die. Its sad but true. When you go vegan, you buy vegetables grown on a farm. Farmers clear land and destroy the natural homes of animals to grow vegetables. They kill “pest animas” such as raccoons, prairie dogs, etc. to protect their crops. When you buy their veggies, you give them money to clear even more land and shoot even more pests. My point is, no matter what you do or what you support, an animal is going to die somewhere down the line. Thats life.

  • Wiki says:

    But Jesus eat fish too. Anyway it’s an interesting point of view. I don’t like the taste of meat and try to eat it seldom times. Fish on the other hand something I eat sometimes. My family observe the tradition of lent and for them is very difficult to change and go vegetarian. It’s a change in lifestyle. Not everybody is ready or have the way to do it but it’s always good to try.

    I’m struggling because my husband likes meat. My husband is very supportive and respectful with my vegetarian option even though he doesn’t try it.

    It’s not for everyone I think but it’s good to try vegetarianism. 🙂

  • Jenni says:

    Wow.. I’ve never known that before.. thanks for this helpful info.

  • M. says:

    Although not directly related to the article, here’s something else to consider when becoming a herbivore: OSHA has called slaughterhouse work one of the most dangerous jobs in the US. By eating meat one supports not only atrocious animal rights abuses and environmental degradation. There are human rights issues as well.

  • Briana says:

    In addition to preserving our oceans and all of its beautiful creatures, this article also tells us to clean up our ways of consumption and consumerism. Even if we don’t eat meat but we still buy toxic products from companies that dump waste (or have most any waste) we are still torturing and killing animals indirectly.

  • Lauren S. says:

    This is a very interesting article that sheds light on a topic that I feel gets looked over. Although I am currently a pescetarian, it has made me think twice. We also don’t need any negative comments. If you aren’t interested in any type of vegan/vegetarian diet, you don’t need to put down others. To each his own!

  • Ashley-P says:

    Hi Jessop, Most of the animals who kill for food could not survive if they didn’t. That is not the case for us. We are better off not eating meat. Many other animals are vegetarians, including some of our closest primate relatives. Why don’t we look to them as our example instead of to carnivores?

  • Ashley-P says:

    Hi Bellissa, Unfortunately, cows and chickens used for organic milk and egg production still suffer most of the cruelty that their non-organic counterparts do. The term “organic” applies only to what the animals are fed and what kind of drugs they are given—it does not signify improvements to quality of life, cleanliness, or how the animals are housed.
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  • Ashley-P says:

    Many biblical scholars believe that Jesus was a vegetarian. Jesus’ message is one of love and compassion, and there is nothing loving or compassionate about factory farms and slaughterhouses, where billions of animals live miserable lives and die violent, bloody deaths. Jesus mandates kindness, mercy, compassion, and love for all God’s creation. He would be appalled by the suffering that we inflict on animals just to indulge our acquired taste for their flesh.

    We all have a choice. When we sit down to eat, we can add to the level of violence, misery, and death in the world, or we can respect God’s creation with a vegetarian diet.

    For more information, please visit

  • Simon says:

    Fish have personalities. There is one trout at the aquarium who likes me to “scratch” him through the glass. I wish he was free, though.

  • kj says:

    I eat fish from the ocean that I caught. How is that bad. And to Tammy (no offence) but God put animals on this amazing planet for people to eat and support their family.

  • K Ramsey says:

    Can anyone direct me to vegan alternatives, especially meat-type dishes, that do NOT use soy?

  • Bellissa says:

    Someone please help me to further understand. Ia m trying to take steps in the right direction and have a question, I figured here would be ideal to post it. Cutting out all fish, chicken, pig, cow and eggs… what would be the issue with not cutting out ORGANIC cow’s milk and cheese products as long as they are organic or local?


  • aparello says:

    I hate the suffering these poor creatures have to endure through the hands of man. How can man be so uncaring to see the suffering of these poor helpless creatures. Man totally makes me sick.

  • Louise says:

    If Jesus was a vegetarian, then why did he serve thousands of hungry people fish?

  • Vwjones says:

    I’m so glad to see this article. Hopefully it will spread some light on this topic. Thank you!

  • Tonette Bates says:

    My daughter sent me this article (of course she’s vegan) andI still eat fish but this hurts!! Sorry!!!

  • Lise says:

    Jesus ate fish. He also taught people to fish. I think he would be okay with people eating them.

  • Jessop says:

    Why is it that its not ok for me to eat meat but it is ok, for instance, if a lion eats a gazelle? I know you’re going to respond with some bs science that says we aren’t supposed to eat meat, but why is it then that we have been eating meat for a really long time now and we live a whole hell of a lot longer than even? I understand the ethical treatment of animals when it comes to farming them for fur or doing experiments etc. However I think that it probably hurts animals a whole hell of a lot more to be swallowed whole by a snake or torn to pieces by a tiger. Vegans suck

  • AmandaJC says:

    I am a pescetarian and have been for the last 2 years, prior to that I was a strict vegie. I am an exercise junkie and without eating fish I was finding that my joints and bones were really feeling it after high impact exercise, despite the fact that I was supplementing with vegie omega 3, at the suggestion of someone I tried fish again and I was fixed instantly. I do try to be sensible about the fish I eat and always make sure it is sustainable/not over fished or farmed.

  • Allie says:

    I totally agree. I dont ever eat any kind of fish or seafood.

  • Tammy Karaba says:

    What a great article. I hope this brings in lots of vegan newby’s! I have to say one thing though, Jesus would of probably ate the fish. Didn’t they have fish &/or beef at the last supper? Just a quick note, God doesn’t want you to devour life (this includes fish).
    Graceful Blessing to all


  • Chris says:

    The bottom line is population growth. It is the underling cause to every environmental problem and why people don’t get this is beyond me. We are supposed to be an intelligent species. Stop trying to affect the symptoms and go for the cure. Stop re-producing and let these fish population and forest and everything else on the planet regenerate once again. Stop consuming everything and think before you buy.

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