Being a vegan is about abstaining from the use and consumption of animal products. People typically adopt a vegan or other plant-based diet due to health, ethical, or environmental reasons.
However, determining what foods are permitted is sometimes debated in the vegan community.
Some people’s opinions differ about whether fish and shellfish can be included. This is often fueled by the idea of speciesism, where humans tend to exclude individual animals from moral consideration because they are not cute, like dogs or koala bears. Let’s face it, cold-blooded scaly animals with strange beady eyes don’t conjure feelings of benevolence. Also, because they live underwater, they are not front and center in our minds as animals that ‘walk the earth.’
But we believe that eating fish not only involves animal cruelty, but it’s also dangerous for the ocean, and possibly detrimental to your health.
There several ways in which the consumption of fish can be seen as cruel.
A study of the neurological wiring of fish confirms they feel pain and show fear. They also rely on social interaction and community to deal with stressful occurrences.
Virtually every commercially-caught fish dies from suffocation as flowing water through their gills is the way they breathe. When this stops, they are deprived of oxygen. Fish caught in the deep waters suffer from depressurization. This causes their organs to burst and their stomachs to protrude from their mouths.
Not only does eating fish cause inherent animal suffering, to keep up with the supply to feed humans, but it is systematically destroying the ocean’s sea life. Currently, over 70% of the world’s fish species are either fully exploited or depleted. This causes massive shifts and detrimental harm to the finely balanced natural ecosystem of the ocean.
Farmed fish do not always offer greater sustainability than wild-caught fish. Many of these fish are genetically modified and fed on diets laced with antibiotics and processed foods. They end up teeming with parasites that eventually find their way onto plates for consumption.
There is also the practice of bycatch. This is the term used to describe the unwanted animals that are caught up in the nets. They are typically thrown back into the water – dead. They include dolphins, turtles and seabirds.
If these reasons aren’t shocking enough, there is more to why, as vegans, we shouldn’t be eating fish. They are the potentially devastating impacts on human health.
Contamination & Health Risks
It is well known that fish accumulate high levels of mercury and carcinogens throughout their lifetime, thanks to us, humans polluting the oceans. As with the state of our oceans, we should be increasingly worried about the pollution showing up in food sourced from the sea. Often far more concentrated in the flesh of the fish and shellfish.
Not only are humans consuming more chemicals and pollutants, but they are also ingesting up to 11,000 pieces of plastic every year with dozens of particles embedded in the tissue of the fish. Given the volume of non-recyclable plastics and pollution being dumped into our oceans daily, we can only expect to see a rise in the contamination of seafood.
So we hope we have given you some food for thought. It is worth taking a second to think about whether you should have that smoked salmon on your salad to prop up your protein……because it is only fish!