The practice eating fish on a Friday is thought to have originated from the Catholic tradition of abstaining from eating meat on that day. Catholic abstinence rules consider that meat comes only from animals such as chickens, cows, sheep and pigs. Fish are considered a different category of animal. So, salt and freshwater fish, amphibians, reptiles and shellfish are all considered fair game. It’s shocking that fish are still considered a species apart from other animals. The reluctance to grant fish the same moral value as other animals must be the convenient way of seeing things for fish-eating ‘vegetarians’. However, new research shows that fish deserve the same level of protection as any other vertebrate. A recent review written by Australian researcher Culum Brown says fish are actually smart, complex creatures that, like humans, also feel pain. Brown, an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University in Australia, says fish have very good memories, live in complex social communities and can even recognise themselves and others. They also have all the requisite equipment for pain perception. Brown says: “Indeed if one examines the pain receptors in fish you would find remarkable resemblance to those in humans.”
If you still fancy a fishy fix on Friday there are plenty of vegan options. Lots of good recipes can be found in Vegan Seafood or the Viva! guide I helped write: Fish-Free for Life. Or you can just buy vegan fish fingers from your local health food shop and make homemade tartare sauce with vegan mayo and capers!