column about vegetarianism from a writer after my own heart--except for the fact that she calls herself a "pescatarian" and considers eating fish, but not meat, hypocritical. Yes, I occasionally eat fish, but why should my philosophy of eating be named accordingly? Why should I label myself a fish-eater (and not a broccoli eater or an egg eater)? My thoughts about animals and food link me to the long history of vegetarianism (covered in enormous detail in this book), so that's the best name for my diet.
As for the hypocrisy: not so fast. When I first stopped eating meat 17 years ago, it was entirely because I didn't want to support factory farming. (I could have opted for a humane-only diet, but that seemed non-viable. If I maintained my appetite for meat, I wasn't going to be able to limit myself to humane meat.) Killing was not the issue. Fish, I figured, have normal lives, not the bizarrely limited lives of factory-farmed cows, pigs and chickens. So there is a moral difference between eating fish and eating meat.
Since I made the decision not to eat meat, my thinking has changed somewhat, and so has the world. My reason for not eating meat is still first and most confidently my disapproval of factory farming. But now I'm also more worried about the killing itself. That means I have to be more concerned about eating fish. I've also become more concerned about the enormous problem of over-fishing and the way modern fishing methods damage the environment. Furthermore, since I stopped eating meat, more and more of the fish in the store is farmed fish, and those animals don't actually have normal lives at all.
Despite all of that, I still think eating fish can be morally better than eating land animals--especially if you take care about which fish you eat (wild, plentiful species like Alaskan salmon are OK; bluefin tuna is not OK). But it's not perfectly OK. So why do I continue?
Well, I don't exactly--I don't continue just as before. We've stopped buying fish for home consumption. I still eat fish when there's something to be gained beyond simple taste--when that makes it easier to eat out, eat with friends and family, sample a local cuisine while traveling, enjoy "sea life" in places like Hawaii. Those are morally good goals, but so is protecting animal life.
So: it's a conflict. But I'm not going to call myself a "pescatarian" or plead guilty to simple hypocrisy. It's more complex than that.