Reasons For Choosing
A Pescetarian Diet
There are many rationales for maintaining a pescetarian diet. Some pescetarians simply do not enjoy the taste or texture of eating meats from land animals. As with most dietary choices, the rationale behind it can differ greatly from person to person.
One of the most commonly cited reasons is that of health, based on findings that red meat is detrimental to health in many cases due to non-lean red meats containing high amounts of saturated fats. 2 3
Furthermore, eating certain kinds of fish raises HDL levels, 4 5 and some fish are a convenient source of omega-3 fatty acids, 6 and have numerous health benefits in one food variety. 7 Some health websites also state that pescetarianism lifestyle is a more healthy diet than vegetarian and vegan ones 8.
It can be claimed conversely that fish also contain toxins such as mercury and PCBs,9 though a careful selection of fish can ensure a low-risk or toxin-free product.10 11
Many people strongly suggest becoming a pescetarian for health benefits and for your own happiness. Many animals are cruelly killed and live miserable and painful lives because of the high demand for red meats. One person changing can make a huge difference.
For some the rationale is ethics: believing that either the treatment, or simply the killing and eating, of mass market "meat" mammals is unethical. The rationalization for eating fish is usually that pescetarians feel significantly less moral attachment to non-land creatures.
Other ethical reasoning includes the following:
- "fish cannot feel pain and therefore cannot be treated cruelly or exploited"
- "fish are less intelligent than other animals"
- "fish are not mistreated in the same way that factory farmed animals are"
- "hooked/netted fish do not suffer as much as land animals that are shot in the wild"
Many of these ethical reasons are disputed.
There is also the belief that the predator-prey relationship between man and animals is part of the "natural order of things" and that, therefore, hunting animals from their own habitat for food is acceptable (as opposed to farming them in an artificial one).
Another ethical consideration of many pescetarians has to do with the inefficiency of red meat as a food source. Most cattle, pork and chickens 12 that supply the United States meat market are not free range. Instead, they are fed grains that are grown for the sole purpose of animal feed.
The amount of calories in the grain needed to feed a cow, pig, or chicken (to a lesser extent) greatly exceeds the nutritional value of the meat these animals provide. Were this grain to be used for human consumption instead, far more food could be provided.
Considerations of overpopulation and the restricted amount of arable land usually play a role in this pescetarian rationale. This view is complicated by the fact that farming carnivorous fish species requires large inputs of wild fish for feed.
A 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that livestock are responsible for roughly 18 percent of the global warming effect 13, outstripping even the contribution of transportation.
The main greenhouse gases produced by livestock are methane - the natural result of bovine digestion - and the nitrogen emitted by manure. Furthermore, the deforestation needed for grazing lands also contributes to global warming, by eliminating the CO2 sinks that forests provide.
Thus some pescetarians choose their diet in an attempt to reduce "livestock's long shadow." 14 Many pescetarians therefore eat predominantly wild caught fish, using guides such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood WATCH to determine which fisheries are sustainable and which ones are overused.
Comparisons To Other Diets:
Although some people who participate in this diet consider it an entirely separate diet to vegetarianism and veganism comparisons are commonly struck up between them.
Both Pesco-vegetarian and vegetarian diets can be each environmentally unfriendly if precautions are not taken, due to the problems of overfishing, by-catch and in both diets, habitat destruction (through arable farming in vegetarianism). For this reason, some pescetarians focus on eating species that are most sustainably fished and avoid many farmed fish (e.g. salmon) also.
The root of pesco- is ultimately from piscis the Latin for fish. However, the vowel e suggests that it has been taken via other Romance languages such as Spanish (pescado) or Italian (pesce). The reason for this seems obvious to English speakers - if they were called piscatarians people might get the wrong idea!
As of August 2004, "pescatarian", "pescotarian", and "piscatarian" could be found on the Internet, but "pescetarian" was perhaps the most popular (while Italian pesce is pronounce with a soft "ch", the English term is usually pronounced with a hard "c".). As of May 2007, the term "pectarian" could also be found on the Internet.
"Pescavore" is also quite common, formed by analogy with "carnivore" (though the more regular word piscivore already existed). Less commonly used terms found include "aquatarian," which has recently gained popularity in Washington, DC, and "fishetarian", which was used in print as early as 1992, and "vegequarian".
- Dictionary.com. Retrieved on 2007-06-27.
- E Giovannucci, EB Rimm, MJ Stampfer, GA Colditz, A Ascherio and WC Willett, "Intake of fat, meat, and fiber in relation to risk of colon cancer in men"., Cancer Research 54, 2390-2397, (May 1, 1994)
- Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD, JoAnn E. Manson, MD, DrPh and Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPh, "Types of Dietary Fat and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: A Critical Review"., Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol. 20, No. 1, 5-19 (2001)
- Paul J Nestel, "Fish oil and cardiovascular disease: lipids and arterial function"., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 71, No. 1, 228S-231S, (January 2000)
- Sacks FM, Hebert P, Appel LJ, Borhani NO, Applegate WB, Cohen JD, Cutler JA, Kirchner KA, Kuller LH, Roth KJ, et al., "Short report: the effect of fish oil on blood pressure and high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol levels in phase I of the Trials of Hypertension Prevention"., Journal of Hypertension, 209-13, ( Feb 12, 1994)
- Frank B. Hu, MD; Leslie Bronner, MD; Walter C. Willett, MD; Meir J. Stampfer, MD; Kathryn M. Rexrode, MD; Christine M. Albert, MD; David Hunter, MD; JoAnn E. Manson, MD, "Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women"., JAMA. 2002;287:1815-1821.
- [http://health.ivillage.com/eating/ewmeat/0,,79sxz0k6,00.html Get Hooked on Fish! by Sue Gilbert, MS, Nutritionis]
- Committee on the Toxicological Effects of Methylmercury, Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology, National Research Council, "Toxicological Effects of Methylmercury"., ISBN 0-309-07140-2 (2000)
- Experts Say Consumers Can Eat Around Toxins In Fish - Science Daily
- Mercury: Are Fish safe to eat? by Gloria Tsang R.D.
- United Egg Producers, "United Egg Producers Animal Husbandry Guidelines"., 2005
- Food and Agriculture Organization, "Livestock's Long Shadow - Environmental Issues and Options"., 2006
- Naylor, R.L., Goldburg, R.J., Primavera, J.H., Kautsky, N., Beveridge, M.C.M., Clay, J., Folke, C., Lubchenco, J., Mooney, H. & Troell, M., [http://iis-db.stanford.edu/pubs/12219/effect_aquaculture_nature_2000.pdf "Effect of aquaculture on world fish supplies"]., Nature, 405, 1017-1024. (June 29, 2000)