“I considered… the taking every Fish as unprovoked Murder, since none of them had or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter…. But I had formerly been a great Lover of Fish, & when this came hot out of the Frying Pan, it smelled admirably well.”
– Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Although not the first vegetarian, Benjamin Franklin once again pioneered and foreshadowed a frenzy as present today as organic diets. Franklin, the young moralist, struggled with the ethical implications of capitalizing on the hegemony humans have over the animal kingdom. Unfortunately, he, like several current vegetarians, actually enjoyed the taste of meat, specifically fish, and maintaining the vegetarian diet required an extra level of selflessness and discipline. Too bad Benjamin never found any pescatarian friends.
Several “vegetarians” today who commonly identify as pescatarian, actually allow fish in their diet. Pescatarians justify their consumption of fish for a whole host of reasons. Because meatless diets often lack iron, vegetarians commonly suffer from an iron deficiency. Vegetarians who lack extreme intentionality in their food choices or fail to take iron supplements are prone to seizures due to extremely low iron levels. A pescatarian might choose to eat fish to prevent these serious side effects of a meatless diet. Some vegetarians abstain from meats like chicken and beef due to inhumane practices utilized in the raising and slaughtering of animals. These same vegetarians might justify including fish in their diet simply due to their inability to feel pain. Other ethical pescatarians fail to recognize fish as meat which allows for their consumption in a vegetarian or meatless diet.
Failing to recognize fish as meat demonstrates a pervasive rationality that an animal’s significance coincides with its size. A young child might cry over a deer their parent hit and the next day, kill an ant without even a second moment’s qualms. Both the deer and the ant belong in the kingdom Animalia, but we as a society only ever mourn over or seek to defend the deer. Pescatarians capitalize on this societal norm. Fish are generally small in comparison to other animals and have a significantly less developed nervous system that limits their capacity to experience pain. Killing a fish therefore crosses fewer ethical boundaries than say killing a cow, or so a pescatarian might justify. Ultimately a fish is still an animal and still experiences pain. Eating fish crosses the same ethical boundaries as eating beef. Even if Benjamin Franklin had found pescatarian friends, he would likely still object to a diet including fish in defense of the fellow animal’s right, rights not just for the human size animals, but for animals of all shapes and sizes.