Why isn't fish considered meat during Lent?

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2021/03/09/why-isnt-fish-considered-meat-during-lent.html


I’ve known vegitarians who refuse meat for ethical reasons but will happily eat fish. Always made zero sense to me…


Otherwise known as pescatarians. People have to draw the line somewhere and some of them draw it at fish/seafood. Otherwise you might as well be a vegan who doesn’t eat honey because it’s “bee slavery” which is up to you but it’s living things the whole way down.


Well, they are vaguely carrot-shaped as a rule.


For Lent this year, I’ve given up.


I think looking for logic, reason, and consistency in human behavior, and a religious one to boot, is a humongous waste of time and energy.


This is the sort of “explanation” that elevates Aquinas from a mere religious retconner to a theologian.


Lent is the 40-day period, not including Sundays, leading up to Easter. It is a time of fasting and reflection, and in the Catholic church, part of that fasting means no meat on Fridays.
Duh, no. Meatless Fridays applied all year.


Coming from a ex-vegetarian* perspective, I have had people try to feed me chicken “because it isn’t really meat”.


*I don’t like eating meat but most vegetarian meals have onion in them, which I am allergic to, and reliably making your own food isn’t easy with chronic fatigue. So I am eating meat until something changes.


Oof, being allergic to onions must suck, i’d imagine thats in nearly everything :open_mouth:

And i thought my dislike of dairy was a pain (not allergic, just don’t like the taste, especially cheese), can make eating out an issue sometimes.


When I still practised, at least, you could choose what you gave up for Lent (and as @jrkrideau says, fish on Fridays was a year-round thing, when it applied at all, which it didn’t always – it kind of came and went with various popes).

Father Ted may be a more reliable source here:


Oof, remind me never to become a vegetarian. I can’t stand onions. I’m not alergic; they’re just plain nasty.

edit: I also hate tomatoes.

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In a handy loophole, beaver may be classified as a fish and eaten during Lent, a source of much ribaldry ever since.

" While the rules of abstinence generally only allow seafood, there are a few exceptions… in response to a question posed by French settlers in Quebec in the 17th century, beaver was classified as an exception "

AFAIK, there is no official Church position on beaver jokes during Lent, but if we turn a few Jesuit scholars loose on it I’m sure they can work it out.


It doesn’t take all that much to follow a religious tradition without knowing the why’s and what’s.

I grew up in an area that was very Catholic, though my family wasn’t. Being a little kid, you make sense of the world best you can. So the fact that our school, a public school, served only fish on Fridays (every Friday) and EVERYBODY at school observed Lent, I just assumed it was a universal thing. Like Christmas, Thanksgiving, driving on the right, etc. It was years before I realized my family didn’t do the same.

Unfortunately we lived far from any ocean and the fish was horrible school cafeteria fish slabs. To this day, I can’t eat fish.


The Jesuits who tortured me for four years of high school considered themselves the most open minded and well educated of all the RCC clergy. While they welcomed debate on all topics, somehow they always seemed to come down in full support of current Catholic dogma. Go figure.

Also, I hope to never again see another packaged “fish stick”.


Until Vatican 2 every Friday was meatless, all year, not just Lent. This was relaxed in the 1960’s. During Lent it is currently Fridays and fastdays (e.g. Ash Wednesday). You are encouraged to give up an additional item/vice of your choice for every day in the 40 days.
In the past people might have given up meat everyday of Lent, as well as eggs, butter and other items. This varied with region and period in history.
I had a teacher that suggested that this might have started as a practical thing. Lent occurs at the end of winter, just before the start of spring. If you were poor you might have eaten through the food you stored away for winter and not have new food ready yet (like Spring Lambs). There might not have been a lot of food choices anyway.

Regarding fish versus meat. Meat is a luxury item. You required land ownership to raise it. If you were a regular farmer, you could not afford to kill your egg laying chickens, milk producing cows every day. If you did have spare animals, you could sell them or eat them. If you were poor, you would probably sell them and eat gruel or mush. Meat was a luxury item for the rich.

Fish did not require land ownership. It did not require you to feed and care for them. Many of the Apostles (inner circle of Jesus’ followers) were fishermen. They were poor landless peasants too. Fish was food of the poor. Eating fish was a humbling experience for a rich person who could eat beef from their estate or venison hunted on their own lands.

Meat used to be used for sacrifice on altars and then distributed to the people attending the sacrifice for consumption. Jesus was self-sacrificed on a Friday eliminating the need for similar sacrifices in the future. Fish was not usually sacrificed on altars.

Now, good fresh fish is an expensive luxury item and frozen chicken patties are food for the poor, so it does not make much sense as a sacrifice, but following the restriction causes you to keep God and religion and the time of year in mind.


I will have to read the full article later, but IIRC giving up meat is supposed to be a sign of giving up luxuries. Which is why during Lent you are supposed to abstain from some little pleasure you have. A symbolic gesture. Red meat was way more expensive and a luxury, but fish was common, cheap food in comparison when the tradition started. You aren’t really giving up a luxury not eating fish.

The tradition continues thanks to the cabal of yellow clad fishermen. Big fish.


Being born and raised in Italy, I come from a very religious family…:rofl:

My grandmother always made a point of preparing Zampone for Good Friday - not exactly fish.


My school also served fish sticks on Friday (back in the '60s). We had so few Catholics that we didn’t even know why. Eventually they started alternating fish sticks with hamburgers on Fridays, and by then we knew about Catholic Fridays, so we joked that the hamburgers didn’t have any meat in them anyway.


There is always a way…

Do you like Fish Sticks? Ask Kanye…