Why do people think fish is meat?
Why is fish not considered meat?
I suspect this is a question that it is impossible to give a definitive answer to.
In reality, it's likely a mix of religion, culture, and confusion.
I think most of the time it comes down to "fish isn't meat because when I was growing up I was told it wasn't meat" or something like that.
In terms of etymology, "meat" originally just meant "food" and as such could be used for any kind of food. This carries over to modern usage to some extent - we sometimes talk about flesh of fruits / vegetables to describe the insides of them, for example coconut.
Personally, I use flesh to describe animal meat regardless of its origin. I don't consider the meat / fish deviation to be sensible or useful.
RE: fish and vegetarianism,
Fish is not vegetarian.
Phew, I'm glad we were able to sort that out.
There is one accepted meaning for the word and it precludes eating fish. There are a lot of people who eat fish who are otherwise vegetarians * which is perfectly fine, but it is a misuse of the word. At the end of the day, we all eat what we like to eat, but it can be difficult to group so many variations together. This confuses others and ultimately creates inconvenience for vegetarians.
Oh language ...
* Though this is probably not true. If you eat fish, when obviously not for moral reasons, you are less likely to exclude animal products in some of the darker places, such as in wine, cheese, or processed goods.
This probably doesn't answer the main question in the title, but in the body of the question you mention:
A friend of mine calls herself a vegetarian. I thought a vegetarian is someone who doesn't eat meat, or more explicitly: someone who avoids dishes that contain parts of something that has a central nervous system or is called an "animal". But she eats fish.
I recently read something (might have been a blog, might have been an online publication) explaining why the person called himself a vegetarian and would still eat fish:
- Because it was easier than explaining all of their can / no-eat items.
Many people are unfamiliar with the term "pescatarian" and when inviting someone to a dinner party it is easier to just say "I am a vegetarian" than "I am a lacto-ovo pescetarian" and take the time to explain what it means. If you are making vegetarian food, you can eat it ... you don't need to know the full ontology of different types of vegetarianism.
People ate fish as "non-meat" long before the vegetarian society was founded. Religion, especially Christianity, has also been influenced by this cultural "flaw". In Japan, where Christianity was only introduced in the mid-16th century, fish was already considered meatless by the dominant religions of Japan, Zen Buddhism and Shintoism. To this day, fish and seafood are considered "non-meat" by many cultures. Hopefully this helps
Deuteronomy 14: 3-20 of the New International Version Bible lists all animals that are considered “CLEAN” to eat. For Bible followers at least, fish is good and shrimp is bad because God said so. I've heard that one of the reasons fish are allowed on Fridays during Lent is because fish don't get the breath of life through their noses, which means they're not considered live animals. Other cultures might have similar ideas. In terms of vegetarianism, my grandmother is a vegetarian who eats fish, poultry, beef, and a little bit of pork. I think everyone has their own set of rules for their diet
At one time, various Christian sects did not consider fasting to be animal meat. In order to find a solution and still eat animal protein, these sects developed an artificially convenient redefinition of meat. This new definition says that fish and meat are separate entities so that they can fast and still eat fish.
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