Do Vegans Eat Fish? [What To Eat Instead For The Same Benefits]

Many people who are new to veganism aren’t sure the differences between vegetarians, vegans, and the rest. One of the things people get confused about most is whether vegans can or can’t eat fish.

Vegans don’t eat fish because they are considered animals and no animal products can be consumed by a vegan. People who eat fish if they are considered pescatarian and are not vegan or vegetarian at all.

You may find that some vegans do consider some seafood to be okay to eat because there is no central nervous system. Oysters are a common controversy here. To be a true vegan, though, you cannot eat fish or seafood of any kind.

That’s just the quick answer. I’ve got so much more to tell you about the topic. My goal is for you to know why vegans can’t eat fish. You should understand how to get the same health benefits that such products offer while you’re eating a restrictive diet.

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What Can Vegans Eat Instead Of Fish

Fish has many health benefits, which is why many desire to be able to eat it. While you can’t do so as a vegan, you can replace this ingredient in your recipes to make it more vegan-friendly.

There are countless vegan substitutes for fish that provide the same health benefits. Many stores now carry fishless filets, which are a fish alternative that is ready-made. I’ve even seen fishless sticks in local stores. 

If you can’t find fish alternatives at your store or don’t like them, you can replace the fish in the recipe with a protein-rich plant, such as tofu, tempeh, beans, and seitan. There are plenty of fake-meat products, such as veggie burgers, as well.

Usually, I find myself eating these types of foods while I’m visiting my friends, as they don’t have the same vegan lifestyle as me. This way, I can eat what everyone else eats, but it doesn’t go against my beliefs and ethics.

Why Don’t Vegans Eat Fish?

Many people have asked me why I don’t eat fish. The reasoning behind it is simple, but everyone seems to forget that fish are animals. There are three primary categories of people who don’t eat fish, which include:

Animal Rights/Welfare Concerns

Most people believe fish feel pain and recent science has shown that they do. They have nociceptors, which are neurons that detect harm from pressure, heat, and irritation. Fish produce natural painkillers like humans.

Experimental research has indicated that if fish get chemical irritants on them, they lose their appetite, rub their bodies along the tank, and show more signs of pain. I don’t condone such research being done on any animal, but the information is already out there.

From an ethical perspective, vegans don’t want to kill or hurt animals. That ultimately leads to the strong argument that you are killing fish to eat them, which is completely opposite the vegan’s creed.

Commercial fishing features extensive cruelties. Many times fish are cut open while they’re alive or must suffer for many days in a net. 

Environmental Issues

Commercial fishing results in bycatch which is any extra animals that accidentally got caught but weren’t targeted. Bycatch can significantly reduce ocean biodiversity.

Approximately 650,000 marine mammals (porpoises, whales, and dolphins) are killed or injured in nets designed for fish every year.

Bottom trawling is another modern practice in commercial fishing and is highly objectionable. Huge nets get dragged on the ocean floor to catch whatever they can.

Studies have shown that the impact of this practice can be seen from space. In a sense, bottom trawling is the water equivalent of cutting down entire forests.

Health Issues

Fish can be a healthy food, but they contain significant levels of mercury and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). The EPA has said that PCBs could lead to cancer in humans.

Studies have shown that women who consume a lot of fish while pregnant could have children with birth defects.

PCBs are toxins that accumulate within the animal fat, so they get even more concentrated as they go up the food chain. 

Most people choose fish for the omega-3 fatty acids it contains. The threat of PCBs is so high that it might be best to avoid it. You can get the omega-3 fats you need, even on a vegan diet.

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How to Get Omega-3s without Fish Oil or Fish

Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy, and a requirement for many people’s dietary needs. People often assume they must eat fish to get it, but other sources are suitable for vegans to consume.

I prefer to take a supplement each day. You can find many vegan brands, which means no actual fish are used to make them.

Make sure it contains EPA and DHA, which are bioavailable forms of the omega-3 fatty acids that vegans can’t get from fish oil or fish.

These supplements use algae as the primary source. It’s possible to get those omega-3 fats from the food you eat, but it’s harder in vegan foods because they aren’t as bioavailable.

This means the body must convert it, and there’s evidence to prove that the body doesn’t do that efficiently.

If you want to eat more foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, there are options. Chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, and hemp seeds all contain some omega-3s. 

Conclusion

To lead a vegan lifestyle, you cannot eat fish or seafood. Some vegans call themselves seagans or ostrovegans so that they can consume certain types of seafood.

I don’t necessarily consider them to be vegan, but that is a personal choice they make. It’s controversial, but I believe everyone has the right to decide for themselves.

If you are vegan and stay away from seafood and fish, I commend you. It’s not easy to get the omega-3 fatting acids from vegetables.

To make it easier, I include fish-alternative products that can help you eat similar foods as the rest of the family. You can utilize supplements to help you get the nutrients your body needs safely and ethically.

Remember, you have a choice when it comes to what you put in your body, and you don’t need fish to be healthy.

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Stephanie Mantilla

Plant-Based Diet & Vegan Lifestyle Expert

Stephanie is the founder of Plant Prosperous, a plant-based vegan living, and parenting blog. She has been eating a plant-based diet for over 24 years along with a B.S. in Biology & Environmental Science. She also has over 14 years of experience working in the environmental and conservation sectors. Stephanie is currently raising her son on a plant-based diet and hopes to help others who are wanting to do the same. You can read more about her here.

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