On the soapbox of things no one cares about, I felt compelled to write a little post about my diet. I would say my diet has been “pescatarian” since about 2008, so about 12 years now as of writing this post.
When I first started eating this way, at first, many of my friends and family thought it was rather strange. Today, most people I know don’t really seem to think twice about it, except in the 1950’s bubble that is Pace, where people still think it is strange. When I worked in an office, instead of at home, there would occasionally be catered lunches, and I would cause some confusion as “the one white guy who is a vegetarian.” (this is not a made up quote)
Why am I a pescatarian… or vegetarian?… or flexitarian… or whatever you want to call it?
(1) Cutting meat out of my diet wasn’t difficult for me. I didn’t care for most chicken or beef. I did enjoy sausage and bacon, but that’s been pretty easy to substitute for.
(2) As a teenager and young adult, I frequently [sometimes 2 or 3 times a week] had intense stomach distress, which magically went away when I stopped eating meat.
(3) Growing up with chickens and turkeys and goats around me gave me a soft spot for farm animals. Learning more about factory farm practices hit me hard as a young adult.
(4) Meat is kind of gross. Again, factory farm practices. Overuse of antibiotics and hormones. Constant recalls (see “foreign matter contamination”).
(5) Being able to put myself in a category, getting to be different from others, and judging other people for not being as “woke” as I am. Okay, that’s a joke, but don’t think it isn’t true for a lot of people. In truth, most of the people I’ve personally known who once described their selves as “vegan” were just hiding an eating disorder. But by all means, “you do you.”
And not because…
I wouldn’t say I am on a primarily vegetarian diet for health reasons… Vegetarian diets often largely consist of processed foods. There are plenty of fat vegetarians out there. Calorie counting and exercise are things I have to do regardless of what kinds of foods I am eating.
I don’t subscribe to the idea that vegetarian diets are healthier than non-vegetarian diets… not exactly anyway… There is a lot of nasty stuff happening in factory farming that should give any health conscious person some pause. There are also newer studies suggesting consumption of certain meats can cause cancer and lower sex drive. I feel like food studies really go back and forth all the time, so I don’t put too much faith in them either way.
I also don’t believe vegetarian diets are less healthy. The whole “well where do you get your protein?” thing. I’ve checked my daily protein consumption; I’m sure I consume more protein than the average person. Besides, the need for protein in the USA is overstated. Most people are pretty sedentary here. There is enough protein in a head of broccoli to sustain a human being.
What about B-12? Uhh, I don’t know… I’ve never had a B-12 deficiency… Get blood work done if you’re concerned…?
What do I eat, what I absolutely won’t eat, and what do I try to avoid?
Won’t eat? I won’t intentionally eat the obvious meat of a terrestrial animal. So, I don’t eat poultry: chicken, turkey, duck, etc, or rabbit (wait huh?). I don’t eat beef or pork.
I don’t drink alcohol either for unrelated reasons. Many drinks contain or use animal products in their making, so that’s one area I don’t have to think about.
What do I eat? I do eat seafood, and things similar to seafood… I have tried alligator and frog and snails, which probably aren’t really considered seafood. I eat fish and shellfish… but not very often. Usually once a month. Maybe less.
Why… well… For one, I am a native Pensacolian. Fried seafood and New Orleans style food are kind of big here and have always been part of my world. I also really enjoy sushi. So yeah, selfish reason mostly [do you see what I did there?] I haven’t cut all that out of my diet completely. Aside from that though, I do have some concern that completely cutting might have a negative impact on my health. Although, I don’t really have anything to back that up.
If I have a choice, I pick plant based milk (soy, almond, cashew, rice, coconut), but I don’t abstain from cheese and dairy deserts. A glass of milk doesn’t taste good to me anymore, and I also have some concern that I am less lactose tolerant than I used to be.
I do eat eggs… honey… The animal products vegetarians typically consume… The stuff vegetarians argue doesn’t / shouldn’t result in the death of animals [even though that’s a lie we tell our selves]
What do I try to avoid? Or rather, what do I know about, but eat anyway… This gets a little more complicated, because I am aware of a number of ingredients that are not “obvious meat” that I try to avoid but don’t fret too much over. We don’t exactly have strict food labeling in the USA. Labels warn you about allergies, not animal products.
Gelatin… I try to avoid gelatin. Gelatin comes mostly from the skin and bones pig and cows, making it not suitable for a number of diets/beliefs. It can be made from fish as well, but food labeling never states the source, and even companies don’t know where their gelatin comes from. What’s worse, gelatin shows up in foods you wouldn’t expect to be non-vegetarian (like conversation hearts and marshmallows). And gelatin usually appears in the middle of ingredient lists. Often times, gelatin could be easily substituted from a non-animal ingredient or just left out altogether. Again, I try to avoid gelatin, I wish things were different, but I am not strict about it.
Rennet… Huh? What’s that? Most people think the “big difference” between vegetarians and vegans is CHEESE. But strictly speaking, a lot of cheese isn’t even vegetarian. Rennet is an enzyme used in cheese coagulation. Rennet comes from the stomach linings of cows and other hoofed animals, but it can also come from plants and microbes… I’m really unsure if food labeling is helpful here. I have read that Kraft claims their cheese uses microbial enzymes, but who knows? Maybe it isn’t a problem for me.
Lot of other things… White sugar often contains cow bone. Food coloring. Miscellaneous and unlabeled “natural flavors”. Yeah, good luck with that.
Not to mention other food products that ARE vegetarian that can also be considered immoral: Such as palm oil, which results in the destruction of rainforests. Chocolate and vanilla, which largely comes out of human slavery and child labor. Slavery is still prevalent in the fishing industry and agriculture. Even in the USA, prison labor is used on farms (see here).
Other “Vegetarian” Groups… Social Media… In defense of “Pescatarianism”
I frequently listen to a vegan / animal rights podcast, and I often come across things on social media. There’s a lot of criticism toward pescatarians and flexitarians and semi-vegetarians out there. Usually what I see is the whole “why do you hate fish” argument. There’s also a lot of “defense” arguments, such as the belief that “Fish don’t feel pain” the same way humans do. In general, I do subscribe to the belief that living creatures want to stay alive, but that also goes for all kingdoms of life, not just animals.
Another frequent thing I read is, “We don’t hate pescatarians. We just hate when you call yourselves vegetarian. You aren’t, and you’re just confusing people when you call yourselves vegetarian. It muddles our message.”
First of all… I’m not responsible for your message. I largely describe myself as a “pescatarian”, but I’ve also described myself as a “flexitarian” in the past. In truth though, I usually tell people I am a “vegetarian”. Oh no! How horrible!
So why do I do this? Why do I infuriate “actual vegetarians” and “vegans” by telling others I am a vegetarian? The answer is pretty simple. Main reason is because no one knows what a pescatarian is! So I have to go into an explanation about what that means, which leads to more questions and discussions that I don’t often care to answer or have. The second reason I describe myself as a “vegetarian” is because my diet is >95% vegetarian anyway. “Well 5% of the time you’re a murderer, so you’re still a murderer” [an actual comparison I’ve seen a nut job write before] Again, if you think you’re 100% non-animal, you’re lying to yourself. I am on the same spectrum of “trying to do better” as you guys.
AND the third reason, I tell people I am a “vegetarian” is… that’s all they need to know… and… CONTEXT. Usually if I’m telling someone I’m a vegetarian, it is because someone else is picking out a restaurant or a dinner FOR me. In which case, I definitely want them to know my diet is primarily vegetarian. I don’t live in a vegan bubble; this ain’t Los Angeles. There are a ton of restaurants around here with zero vegetarian options. Good luck around here if you’re trying to be vegan. Sure, I from time to time eat a little seafood, but if and when I do, it is of my own choosing and shouldn’t be considered in my norm.
As Sam Simon frequently quoted on his own podcast… Perfect is the enemy of good.
I am not raising my kids to be vegetarian. They must ultimately choose their own diets and beliefs… with some guidance. When Dylan asks me why I don’t eat meat, I do explain why. However, I don’t cook meat [not even fish really]. So what meat they do eat pretty much has to be from a restaurant or school or pre-prepared stuff.