Random Thoughts on Pescetarianism v. Vegetarianism/Veganism

This occurred to me while having a conversation related to (mostly by wealthy white men) poaching in Africa, and led into a discussion of hunting and hunting culture. In this part of Illinois (about fifteen minutes — if even — from the Wisconsin border), hunting is a major pastime in the autumn and a major industry. If you go into any sporting goods store this time of year, you’ll be bombarded with orange and camouflage. And guns! Because what is America without guns? I’ve never been hunting nor fired a gun, and I can say with a fair amount of confidence that I will be able to make the same claim when I’m 80 (assuming I get there). While I never have nor will understand the pleasure that some people supposedly feel in ending the life of another living creature, I recognize that in a market when wages are stagnant, cost of living is increasing and jobs in some sectors are scarce, I have no doubt that there are many people — especially in the so-called “Rust Belt” (where I reside; it’s hard to tell nowadays, but Rockford, Ill. was once a premier manufacturing city) — who do sincerely, and out of necessity, hunt to put food on the table. But I also think there are many more who do it for the “sport,” which comes across as a pathetic excuse to fire or shoot a weapon and take the life of another living creature. I don’t see the “sport” in shooting a long-range and extremely deadly weapon when your target has only its teeth, tusks or claws to defend itself.

But that’s a very long and complex discussion that at almost 03:00, I’m not up to addressing in the length or detail a fair conversation would require. It would likely require a book. In fact, there are quite a few out there, but I think this one by Jeremy Schmidt is perhaps the most relevant given recent events making headlines around the world. I started writing this with just a random thought that occurred to me while having this conversation about wildlife, poaching, hunting and the murdering — whether lawful or not — of fellow living creatures.

A few friends of mine are “pescetarians,” meaning that they abstain from meat with the exception of fish. So no steak, no chicken parm, no döner kebaps and no hotdogs at Wrigley. A course of ahi tuna sashimi? Sure thing. Another of Unagi Maki? Of course (though I have gotten conflicting responses on the eel question, about whether an eel is a proper fish)! Vegetarians, of course, abstain from meat of any kind and vegans, also of course, abstain from any product extracted or produced by animals. Full disclosure: I am neither of the latter. I do eat meat, though infrequently, but always ethically sourced. That does not absolve me, I realize. I have been a vegetarian in the past and likely will be in the future, though I like cream in my coffee and cheese too much to be vegan. What I’m wondering is why killing cows, chickens or pigs is ethically different from killing fish? If one’s reason for pescetarianism is based on an ethical imperative, why are fish not subsumed within the same stricture? If for health reasons, I can understand that; it’s no secret that fish are lower in fat, calories and LDL (and, depending on where you get your meat, antibiotics and growth hormones), but they’re still living creatures just like the turkey on your Thanksgiving table.

Even though I’m not a lawyer (thank the gods), I did study philosophy in college, and perhaps this is just an overly legalistic perspective. I’m still waiting to hear the ethical rationale for eating fish while avoiding other types of meat. What we call “meat” is nothing more and nothing less than the flesh, the body of another living creature. Why do some creatures’ lives matter less than others?

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~ by Benji on 3 August 2015.

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