Why is fish not considered as meat?

  • While reading a thread on cooking, an old question popped into my head: I am an Asian and had no problems with dishes with both meat and “fish.” But some of my elder German friends say that meat and “fish” don't fit.

    Why is fish not considered as meat? And what kind of species are considered as "fish"?

    Some thoughts about that:

    When I was a child, I thought every creature that has muscle tissue has meat. Fish (these animals that swim in the water and have fins like Nemo or your goldfish) included.

    A friend of mine calls herself a vegetarian. I thought a vegetarian is someone who doesn't eat meat or more explicit: Someone who avoid dishes that contain parts of something that has a central nervous system or called "animal." But she eats fish. Another case: On Good Friday (or Friday in general?!) some Christians in Germany (or anywhere else) eat "vegetarian" food - but including fish.

    Then I heard about the biblical story: God hated the humans but liked Noah, Noah built an arch, rescued himself, his family and some animals and God made it rain until everything drowned. The only species that didn't drown... fish. So I thought fish were the holy animal since the Protestants had a fish as a symbol (aside from the cross).

    And what about shrimps, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, squids, clams, crustaceans (I avoid to use “shellfish” ;D), …? They are also called “fish.” I don’t think that the bible would refer to these kinds of … fish. The texture of these compared to real fish is completely different.

    After some googling, I found some “nutrition scientists” in a forum who claim that fish are no mammals and therefore have no “meat.” But then I would conclude that poultry and reptiles would neither have “meat.” Other claimed “scientists,” say that only animals with red meat would have meat. No, then whale meat, tuna meat, duck meat, and beef would exist but no chicken meat, turkey, pork, ...

    A mutual property of real fish, shrimps, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, squids, clams, crustaceans is the ability to stay for some time in the water (sea, lake, river or pool) and the ability to reproduce themselves by laying (?) eggs. What about sea snakes, jellyfishes, lungfish, whales, dolphins, seals, frogs, turtles and other animals which go for some time from water into land and vice versa?

    As it's a cultural thing, I'm guessing that the issue might be an issue with translation. (where groups has words that we've translated to 'meat', but whose definition was mammal & poultry (and possibly reptile or amphibian), and didn't include fish.

    For the record, fish is not vegetarian; in the sense that there's a commonly accepted definition which includes not eating fish. Many people consider themselves to be vegetarian and eat fish, which is fair enough but the word is being misused and causes confusion. https://www.vegsoc.org/fish#.VA3U4fldVCM

    The Good Friday thing isn't "eat vegetarian" but "don't eat beef or pork because those were historically decadent, expensive foods and therefore inappropriate for a somber mourning occasion". It has nothing to do with Noah and the flood or with the symbol of Jesus as a fish from my understanding.

    The word for a vegetarian diet with the addition of seafood is pescetarian, to attempt to clear that up. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pescetarianism

    I'm not sure this question is actually on-topic for this site: clearly, from a culinary point of view, fish *is* considered to be meat. It's only from various cultural and religious points of view that fish are seen as some sort of exception to the "flesh of animals" definition.

    @Yamikuronue: You're right, someone told me nonsense :( The USCCB says that ckicken broth and soups technically not forbidden in abstinence o_O

    @Marti: I didn't know where else to post this question. And I thought this question might have something to do with nutrition science because I read confusing stuff in other cooking forums where users claimed themselves as nutrition scientists and told the classification of meat and fish is a matter of a technical nature.

    The bibel (Levitikus ) does, by way of exclusion, refer to sea urchins etc., as it only allows to eat water animals with scales and fins.

    Just for the sake of completeness and because the question popped up today: the fish is not "holy" (christianity doesn't have holy animals, only a few with symbolic meaning), but the letters of the greek word for fish (ichthys) were used as an akronym for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour". See wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ichthys

    Per explanation by @Stephie the fish symbol was used so the followers could find each other to meet secretly and avoid persecution.

    You're completely confused. Our work here is done.

    @gbarry Who's completely confused? Me? And whose work here is done?

    Sorry. Just trying to poke a little fun. The fact that we arbitrarily choose labels for things has gotten us into this mess. And trying to explain it with more examples just adds to the number of ways we can look at things. I didn't intend for it to be personal.

    Christian fasting: They didn't know a lot of science 1000 years ago. In Lent they were only allowed to eat fish, and for them this included anything that lived in water, so ducks, geese, beavers...

  • Niall

    Niall Correct answer

    6 years ago

    I suspect that this is a question that it's impossible to give a definitive answer for.

    In reality it's probably a mixture of religion, culture and confusion.

    I reckon that in most cases that it boils down to "Fish isn't a meat because when I was growing up I was told it's not a meat", or something like that.

    In terms of etymology, "meat" originally just meant "food" and as such could be used for food of any kind. This carries over to some extent in modern usage - we sometimes talk about meat of a fruit/vegetable to describe the inside of it, coconut for example.

    Personally I use meat to describe animal flesh regardless of the origin, I don't view the meat/fish deviation as being one that is either meaningful nor useful.

    RE: fish and vegetarianism,

    Fish isn't vegetarian.

    Phew, glad we could clear that up.

    enter image description here There's an accepted meaning for the word and it excludes the eating of fish. There are a lot of people who eat fish and are otherwise vegetarian*, which is perfectly fine, but it's a misuse of the word. At the end of the day we all eat what we're comfortable eating, but it can be difficult grouping that many variations. This confuses others and in the end leads to inconvenience to vegetarians.

    Oh language...

    *Although this probably isn't true. If you're eating fish than it's obviously not on moral grounds so you're less likely to exclude animal products in some of the more obscure places, like may be in wines, cheeses, or indeed any processed goods.

    Vegetarians can eat wine, cheese, et cetera; they don't eat flesh of animals but do often eat animal by-products. You're thinking of Vegans, who don't eat anything that comes from animals at all.

    @Yamikuronue: It's not just _eating_ animal products. Some won't wear leather shoes.

    Also true! But my point was the difference between vegetarian and vegan

    There are a *lot* of different takes on 'vegetarian'. You're assuming that your definition holds true for all people, but it doesn't. We've since coined terms for the various types of vegetarians (eg, pescetarian in this case, ovo-lacto for those who eat eggs & dairy), but the general category of 'non-meat eaters' is considered by most people to be 'vegetarian', even though it's a rather fuzzy grouping. (the ovo-lacto-pescetarian in the office next door even calls herself a 'vegetarian')

    @Yamikuronue: I said that wine and cheese _may_ not be vegetarian (ie. some wines and cheeses are and some aren't); traditionally wines were often fined with gelatine and most cheeses used rennet from animals. These are both products that are obtained from killing the animal and are thus not vegetarian. Many wines and cheeses are now made using rennet and fining agents from other (vegetarian) sources but many don't. Thus, some wines and cheeses are vegetarian and some aren't. More info here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rennet and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism_and_wine

    @Joe: I didn't mean what I said to assume that. We all use words in different ways but in spite of this accepted definition of the word vegetarian - https://www.vegsoc.org/definition. I might be perfectly happy to call myself a unicorn but this doesn't change what the word means. For the scope of this site (ie. not getting into a debate about semantics and how they change over time) I think it's reasonable to say that there's authorities on the matter which have a definition and we should accept what they say.

    @Niall : They even couch their answer ... "The Vegetarian Society defines a vegetarian as: ...", which is effectively saying that there's more than one possible definition. They define vegan as a subset of vegetarianism, but I've heard arguments that cruelty-free meat (ie, roadkill from wild animals) is acceptable to some vegans, as they'd prefer it to not be wasted.

    @Joe: Sure, but a very respected authority is a much better source on the matter than anecdote.

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