People who are otherwise vegan/vegetarian but still eat fish may do so for a number of reasons:
- They think that fish is a "healthy" necessity that must be eaten for good health.
- They went veg*n to reduce cholesterol levels, lose weight, or otherwise improve their health, and, since fish is considered by many to be a good "diet" food, they see no point in avoiding it.
- They care about animals, but they don't consider fish to be animals or sentient beings.
- They want to be vegan, but they also want to "pamper" themselves by eating a "cheat food" now and then.
- They've never thought about it too deeply, or they try not to think about it.
- Do we need to eat fish to be healthy?
When fish is touted as a health food, this is often because of its omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary to consume for good health; however, you don't need to eat fish to get omega-3s through your diet. Some extremely good vegan sources of omega-3 include flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, chia seeds, and hemp seeds. It can also be found in soy, mustard seeds, walnuts, leafy green vegetables, grains, and spirulina. If you are still concerned about getting enough omega-3s, you can also take a vegan DHA/EPA supplement, derived from algae.
- Is there anything wrong with eating fish, from a health standpoint?
According to Dr. Michael Greger, M.D., "All fish contain small amounts of methylmercury, the most toxic form of mercury, and fish consumption represents the main source." In his video "Fish Consumption Associated With Brain Shrinkage", he goes on to discuss the frightening effect that relatively low levels of mercury in the body can have on brain development. Here's the video below:
- Are fish sentient?
Why wouldn't they be? I think people are able to dissociate their emotions from fish because fish are so different from us, whereas sheep, pigs, and chickens are more relatable. Still, that doesn't mean that fish aren't sentient beings. Researchers on fish behaviour have shown that fish do display complex personalities and social structure, are intelligent, and are capable of feeling pain.
- Is it okay to "cheat" on a vegetarian or vegan diet now and again?
There's no "vegan police" that is going to come and arrest you for eating fish. However, please remember that "cheating" by eating sentient beings causes more animal suffering and death, and it is also simply morally inconsistent. Not only that, but by allowing yourself to eat one animal product, you're more likely to backslide and cave into your cravings for more.
- Should we think about these issues even if it causes us discomfort to face them?
Yes! Our world (including the animals and humans of the world) is in crisis. If we all hide our heads in the sand and do nothing, we will pay for the consequences (such as environmental degradation, poverty, and cruelty) later. It takes courage to face the truth, but it is crucial that we change our behaviours to help animals, humans, and the environment, even if that means stepping outside our comfort zone.
Have a nice week!
Omega-3 fatty acids:
"Fish Intake Associated with Brain Shrinkage": http://nutritionfacts.org/video/fish-consumption-associated-with-brain-shrinkage/
"Fish Feel Pain": http://www.mercyforanimals.org/fish/fish-feel-pain.aspx
"Do Fish Have Personalities?": http://www.americanscientist.org/science/pub/do-fish-have-personalities
Fish Intelligence: http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/fish/hidden-lives-fish/