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Do vegetarians eat fish?

March 23, 2009

No, of course not.

The UK Vegetarian Society defines a vegetarian as “someone living on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits, with or without the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish or crustacea, or slaughter by-products.”

But many people who eat fish do refer to themselves as vegetarians. I can undertand this. When travelling or going on a course, in order to ensure you don’t get a meat based meal you have to tick the box indicating you are a vegetarian (just as vegetarians often tick the box marked ‘vegan’ to ensure they don’t get a tuna sandwich, or a plate of boring cheese sandwiches).

In the UK, if you eat out and say you are a vegetarian you are no longer automatically offered fish.

Here in France things are a bit more out of date.  When a restaurant says it offers a vegetarian alternative (rare enough) you may find them referring you to the fish menu.

Even the media get it wrong.

In last weeks un diner presque parfait (5 people compete for 1000 euros, each night of the week a different contestant hosts and the others give marks out of 10 for table decoration, the food and ambiance) the voice over constantly referred to one of the contestents as Végétarienne as she didn’t eat meat. However, the meal she prepared consisted of fish for appetiser, starter and main course.

To be fair to the constestant, she did not declare herself vegetarian, saying only Je ne mange pas les viande (I don’t eat meat).

There is now a Facebook group calling on the television channel which broadcast the programme to appologise and make it clear that people who eat fish should not be referred to as vegetarian. Click here to join it.

The UK Vegetarian Society is currently running the following campaign:

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