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Farmed vs. Wild vs. Vegetarian

August 11, 2010

I had a really interesting conversation with a close vegetarian friend last night about how I deal with an internal battle with the eating of fish. He was remarkably open to the ideas I had about farmed vs. wild and eating humanely, and seemed to understand where I am struggling. I really enjoy supportive conversations like the one we had. True vegetarians tend to get defensive around pescetarians. However, I look at all of us as existing on a sliding scale in the efforts to reduce environmental impact and stop cruelty. The reality is that I eat fish at most once a week, and the vast majority of the world consumes pounds and pounds of meat and fish. It is not a race to be the most perfect consumer, and I appreciate camaraderie along the way.

The ideas from the last book that I read, The Face on Your Plate, has me thinking more and more about what I eat and where it is coming from. It emphasized the negatives of farmed fish, especially the antibiotics dumped into the water, fish cages, sea lice, pollution, brutal deaths, and the poor quality of the fish. In contrast wild salmon are fished in a remarkably different way. Using the life pattern of salmon, who are born in a stream then leave their home only to return to lay eggs and die, wild fisheries strategically lay the eggs and wait for the salmon to return. In this regard, the salmon live a long life and are fished when they are going to die. For some reason, this sits with me much better then fish farming. However, the more I think about, the more likely I am to transition out of eating fish. For now, I will stick to the wild salmon, but start to build up an arsenal of vegetarian recipes to ease my transition.

Switching back to a full-time vegetarian opens a floodgate of issues. Am I prepared to work really hard to keep my protein and iron up, as anemia has plagued me my entire life? How do I consider AAM’S feelings when I change the household (he is flexible- but this does affect him)? Do I raise Serafina vegetarian? Am I ready for the backlash on the decision to have no fish in the house? Do I change my blog: the name and the content? I also worry about how my diet, and raising my daughter vegetarian, might negatively affect my relationships with family and friends. These may seem to be trivial considerations, but they become very real matters.  I hate being a dietary pain, and I particularly don’t like having to answer to everyone about my dietary choices. I am trying to vote with my plate, but not make a dictatorship out of eating. For now, I will eat wild salmon, and give myself time to decide.

For those who were raised vegetarian or are raising your child vegetarian, do you have anything you would like to share about your experience? Please comment below if you have ideas.

Click here for an article on the farmed v. wild salmon debate

6 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2010 2:39 am

    I was not raised vegetarian, but had very supportive parents when I decided to become one at age 13. I became vegan about ten years later, started dating a vegan man who is now my husband the next year, and have been vegan for ten years. We're now raising our kids vegan, but we've agreed that when they are old enough to understand our reasons for being vegan and to make their own decisions about their diet, we will remain vegan at home, but they can make their own choices outside of the house. When they are living on their own, they can eat however they choose. Not too different than how many families handle religion or cultural practices. Our oldest child is only two, so we haven't had too many obstacles so far, but I'm sure there will be many to come. When I was pregnant, questions about raising him vegan seemed so ominous, and then I realized that they don't come out of the womb asking "Mommy, why can't I have a piece of Johnny's birthday cake?"Here are a few random observations based on my experience:1. It is much much easier to be vegan (or vegetarian) when everyone in your home is vegan (or vegetarian). This makes things easier with the kids, too. I have absolutely no insights for handling how you explain that one parent is doing one thing and another parent is doing something else, although I'm sure it can be done.2. We have a very informed and supportive pediatrician who is 100 percent okay with our kids' vegan diet. We informed ourselves about its healthfulness for babies/kids and then sought out a professional who would be supportive of our decision. It always helps when everyone who has a big role in raising your child is on the same side.3. Everything up to this point with my son's diet has been very easy. That said, he has no allergies. I imagine that could complicate things. He is two and just starting to attend events like birthday parties (cake) and BBQs (meat). We approach these situations like you might with a child who has an allergy: a little advance planning and a good dose of realism. I decided very early that I did not want to be the parent whose kid has to eat apple slices when everyone else is having a cupcake. If the kids will be having cupcakes, we bring a vegan one. Luckily, so many kids have allergies and special diets these days that our son has become the rule rather than the exception. Also in our favor is the increasing number of grocery stores and bakeries that provide vegan options.4. We haven't yet had the big talk with our son about why we don't eat animal stuff, but he's probably just old enough for it. I have heard that while we expect vegetarian kids to be embarrassed and resistant about being vegetarian, many of them actually swing the other way and become little zealots who don't understand why other people eat animals. If you think about it, especially with all of the cutesy animal stuff we expose kids to, it makes perfect sense to them that we shouldn't eat them. I'm trying to prepare for all possibilities with the knowledge that–as with everything else about parenting–I'm bound to be surprised no matter what.All in all, so far so good. Ask me in a few years (or even a few months) and I might have some new (and maybe different) thoughts about the whole thing.

  2. August 12, 2010 4:37 am

    I think one key thing to keep in mind is that, generally, people do not have restricted diets (like you mention above) for logistical reasons. It's an emotional, political, personal decision – one felt relatively deeply.I suggest first trying to decide how you really feel on the meat/fish-consumption front. Family, friends, birthdays aside – in a vacuum, what would you do? Then, from there, decide how/if that's feasible. Blogs can be changed, husbands can adjust, family and friends can learn to deal with you (or vice versa)… It's not necessarily easy, but generally doable. It just depends how much energy it will take and how much energy you have to spare.In terms of kids, I'm not 100% confident in my initial opnion, but here it goes: Raising a kid (from my understanding at least) is no walk in the park. You're constantly monitoring behaviors, health, food consumption… I see pescatarian/vegetarian as only another way to do what any parent already is (or should be) doing. You plan, prepare, shop for certain brands and items, worry about what other parents or school or babysitters are feeding them, making sure they are living healthy…Also, from my understanding, there really are no drawbacks to cutting out meat in your (or a child's) diet. Yes, you should strive to eat all the necessary nutrients, but so should meat-eaters.So, my vote is that if you feel there is strong merit in a vegetarian diet (or in wild-only seafood, etc.) then you should go for it. For you and your kid. The worst thing you could do is fail (in which case you could just say you changed your mind…).Also, please note this is from someone who has a hard enough time staying true to his own ideal consumption behavior – so I by no means am an authority nor one to judge. I also was not raised vegetarian, by vegetarians, and do not have kids. So, take this opinion for whatever it's worth. I've just always been fascinated about this very topic – particularly raising kids veg…

  3. August 12, 2010 12:15 pm

    I wasn't raised pescetarian, vegetarian, or vegan, nor am I any of the above now. However Sarah's comments made me think of a girl I grew up with who was Jehovah's Witness. In elementary school she was the only child not allowed to say the Pledge. She had to sit at her desk and watch while the rest of us exchanged Valentine cards. She never had a Halloween costume, and she couldn't come to any birthday parties. It seemed cruel that she had to go into the world bearing the burden of her parents' faith tradition as a 5 year old. There were no other Jehovah's Witnesses in our class; she was out there on her own. (Sorry, tangent!)

  4. August 12, 2010 1:57 pm

    Hey Maureen and Sara, I don't have much to add. I'm proud of my ability to have conversations with Maureen that she enjoys and don't irritate her too much, while still making her think!I think you represented my basic views pretty well. I definitely hear all of your concerns; most of them I don't have to deal with right now, but I guess it comes up on dates or when hanging out with friends now and again. I like Sara's approach in terms of raising Serafina (who has the best middle name ever). I would also add that you shouldn't feel boxed in just because you start one way and then maybe later question that and want to go another way. The important thing is to just enjoy eating!- David

  5. August 12, 2010 4:00 pm

    I was not raised a vegetarian. Quite the opposite, I was not exposed to many fresh fruits or vegetable until my mid-20s. You raising your daughter vegetarian should not affect your relationship with family. For the most part, people are accommodating if given notice. In fact, I have found that they are happy you mentioned something so that their guests didn't feel awkward (I hate the word awkward- it's too awkward). I wish my parents raised me vegetarian or at least thinking about my health. I am shocked that I'm not dead. I ate horrible stuff. I gave up fish five years ago. I did so because of ethical reasons – the cruelty of it. Wild salmon seems reasonable, but it also seems like a pain to make sure it's wild all the time. People might have a harder time understanding that you only eating wild fish. As for the blog, I think you should keep it. People change and your blog should reflect this. Maybe call it the blog formerly known as the Pescetarian. I say feed your kid, like you feed yourself— well later- don't start eating baby food- unless you like it.

  6. August 12, 2010 5:51 pm

    Thanks for all of your ideas. You are so right, that I should follow my passion, and that things and people change. Usually people catch up to the change, so hopefully my family will not give me too much trouble 🙂 So, for now I am evolving and looking towards a vegetarian diet. I am going to read up on raising children vegetarian. A friend recommended: Raising Baby Green and Vegetarian Baby and Child. I am super excited to cook for Serafina, and deciding on how I choose to raise her Oh and Barb, I totally get your Jehovahs Witness analogy. I think I would be fine for her choosing to eat meat when she was out of the house, I don't want to be despotic, but that our household would be vegetarian (which is how AAM and I handle it now). That also might be how we can explain parents eating differently outside of the home. That at home, we don't buy or cook meat, but that if she or daddy wanted to do it when they were out that it was their decision.

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