Pescetarian or pescatarian is a neologism formed as a portmanteau of the Italian word pesce ("fish") and the English word vegetarian. The English pronunciation of both pescetarian and pescatarian is , with the same sound present in pescato (Italian: [pe'ska:to], derived from piscatus, the perfect passive participle of the Latin verb piscor (meaning "to fish"), though not in the word pesce (Italian: ['pee]).
Pesce in turn derives from the Latin piscis, which has the form pisci- when it serves as a prefix, as it often does in scholarly terms (e.g. pisciculture, piscivore). A piscivore, a type of carnivore, subsists on a diet primarily of fish, whereas a pescetarian eats plant derivatives as well as fish.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary dates the origin of the term pescatarian to 1991 and defines it as: "one whose diet includes fish but no other meat".
Some pescetarians adopt their diet because of the inefficiency of other meat sources. For example, in the United States most cattle, chickens and pork are not free-range and are fed with grains specifically grown for their food. Therefore, the environmental impact and the amount of energy needed to feed a cow, a chicken or a pig greatly exceeds its nutritional value. Such pescetarians might prefer to eat wild-caught fish, as opposed to farmed carnivorous fish that require food input of other fish. They might use guides such as the Seafood Watch to determine the sustainability of their seafood source.
Other pescetarians might regard their diet as a transition to vegetarianism, an ethical compromise (ethical pescetarianism), or a practical necessity to obtain nutrients absent or not easily found in plants.
Furthermore, pescetarianism may be perceived as more ethical because fish, along with certain other animals such as insects, may not associate pain and fear as more complex animals like mammals do. Researchers have found that, unlike mammals, fish do not have the neuro-physiological capacity for a conscious awareness of pain. Fish do not possess a neocortex, which is the first indicator of doubt regarding whether they have pain-awareness. That is, certain nerve fibres in mammals (known as c-nociceptors) involved in the sensation of intense experiences of pain are not present in primitive cartilaginous fish. Some cartilagenous fish, such as sharks and rays do contain traces, yet there is an incomplete development of these fibres. To further test this, researchers administered powerful painkillers (such as morphine, which are highly effective in humans and mammals) to fish. They were found to be either totally ineffective or were only partially effective in doses so high that they would result in death from overdose. In this respect, although fish do show instinctive reactions to injuries and other interventions, the physiological prerequisites for the conscious experience of pain is not present. This, in combination with the pharmacological data, has supported the notion that fish do not feel pain in human, mammalian or biological terms. However, this theory is disputed: see the main article Pain in fish.
In 2013, an Adventist Health study found that pescatarians have lower mortality rate than any other vegetarian diets.
Concerns have been raised about consuming some fish varieties containing toxins such as mercury and PCBs, though it is possible to select fish that contain little or no mercury and moderate the consumption of mercury-containing fish.
Abstinence in religion
Pescetarianism (provided the fish is ruled kosher - i.e., fish with fins and scales, and usually caught without bloodshed, as well as having no worms or insects inside; cut with a kosher knife and cooked in kosher utensils) conforms to Jewish dietary laws, as kosher fish is "pareve" (or "parve") - neither 'milk' nor 'meat'. In some Sephardic Jewish homes, fish is never served with foods made with milk products. All non-fish seafood is non-kosher.. Mammalian 'fish' such as dolphins and whales, as well as Elasmobranchii such as sharks and stingrays, are not kosher because they have dermal denticles and not bony-fish scales. The definition of a fish in Judaism is broader (sea-life) than the common usage of the term 'fish' (non-mammals).
In 2015, a member of the Liberal Judaism synagogue in Manchester founded The Pescetarian Society.
By tradition, most Hindu Brahmin communities follow a strict lacto-vegetarian diet. However, there are a number of Brahmin sub-groups that allow fish eating. These include the Goud Saraswat Brahmin community from Coastal South-Western India. This community regards seafood in general as vegetables from the sea. They refrain from eating any land-based animals. Other Hindu communities who consume seafood in great quantity are the Maithili Brahmin and the Bengali Brahmin. The latter also eat meat on special occasions. Among the northeast Indian Hindus of Assam, Tripura, and Manipur, it is common for pescatarians to include poultry in their diets.
Eating of fish is permitted in Islam without need for the Dhabihah slaughter procedure required for meat.
Comparisons to other diets
Pescetarianism is similar to many traditional diets emphasizing fish as well as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, edible fungi, legumes, bread etc. Many coastal populations tend to eat this way. In common with some vegetarians, pescetarians often eat eggs, dairy products and packaged foods in addition to fruits, vegetables and grains.
Pescetarians are sometimes described as vegetarian or pesco-vegetarian, but vegetarians commonly do not consider the pescetarian diet to be vegetarian. The Vegetarian Society - whose members historically did not object to the consumption of "eggs, milk or fish" - now does not consider pescetarianism to be a vegetarian diet. Despite this, definitions of vegetarian in mainstream dictionaries sometimes include fish in the diet. The Pescetarian Society evolved separately from The Vegetarian Society to better represent the lifestyle and interests of pescetarians.
^Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (2002 and 2007) defines "vegetarian" (noun) as "A person who on principle abstains from animal food; esp. one who avoids meat but will eat dairy produce and eggs and sometimes also fish (cf. VEGAN noun)."
^Barr SI, Chapman GE (March 2002). "Perceptions and practices of self-defined current vegetarian and nonvegetarian women". Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 102 (3): 354-360. doi:10.1016/S0002-8223(02)90083-0. PMID11902368.
^ abRose, J. D., Arlinghaus, R., Cooke, S. J., Diggles, B. K., Sawynok, W., Stevens, E. D., & Wynne, C. D. L. (2014). "Can fish really feel pain?" Fish and Fisheries, 15(1), 97-133. doi:10.1111/faf.12010
^Key, TJ; Fraser, GE; Thorogood, M; et al. (1999). "Mortality in vegetarians and nonvegetarians: detailed findings from a collaborative analysis of 5 prospective studies". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 70: 516S-524S. doi:10.1079/phn19980006. PMID10479225.CS1 maint: Explicit use of et al. (link)
^"International Health Exhibition", The Medical Times and Gazette, 24 May 1884, 712. "There are two kinds of Vegetarians--one an extreme form, the members of which eat no animal food whatever; and a less extreme sect, who do not object to eggs, milk, or fish. The Vegetarian Society ... belongs to the latter more moderate division."
^Jodorowsky, Alejandro (23 July 2015). "Alejandro Jodorowsky". Twitter (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 10 June 2016. Retrieved 2017. No como carne... Ensaladas, verduras, cereales, nueces, frutas... A veces, cuando mi cuerpo me lo pide como camarones...
^"Melanie Lynskey, Actress". Sansceuticals.com. December 8, 2018. Archived from the original on December 31, 2018. Retrieved 2018. [I have been a vegetarian] Since I was ten, although now I eat fish and have to call myself a pescetarian, [...]