Thursday, August 9, 2007

Fishy Reasoning

I am, what I think would be called, a lacto-ovo-pescitarian vegetarian (sorry if I mangled the spelling), which means I'm a vegetarian who eats dairy, eggs and fish. Some people would say that eating fish disqualifies me as vegetarian.

I'd flirted with vegetarianism for almost 20 years before going all out and defining myself as one. I'm not a great cook being the main thing that stopped me from committing. All the vegetarians I know are wonderful, creative cooks who make healthy, delicious foods enjoyed by everyone. I am not inventive in the kitchen and am terrible at following recipes. The fact that each of my family members is a happy, devoted carnivore just seemed like too much to overcome. But, the last couple of years, I just kind of stopped eating meat, using meat substitutes for myself(Qorn, veggie burgers, etc) when cooking family meals.

My main reason for being vegetarian is ethical. I know that I could not kill an animal and then eat it and it seems very wrong to me to eat meat from animals killed by someone else. I decided more than a year ago that I would not eat meat until my intuition guides me elsewhere. It helps that I don't really like meat that much (although I do miss chicken-salad sandwiches).

But, I still eat fish at least once a week. Partly, I eat it because I'm not such a good cook and I know I need the protein and other nutrients found in fish. Partly, because I can cook one meal that the whole family will enjoy when I make fish; most of my vegetarian meals are picked at by my family who then, an hour after dinner, will throw a frozen pizza in the oven. Partly, so I will have an item I can find on most restaurant menus. And I justify eating fish by not really thinking about how they're killed and then thinking vaguely that they have a less sophisticated nervous system than mammals thus feel less fear and pain when killed.

We're going to my in-laws' house tomorrow to celebrate Hammy's and his father's birthdays. Hammy got the idea that he wants to take the kids fishing so we're going to pick up his parents and we're all going to a trout farm where they stock a big lake with trout and catfish. Lovely idea. Just one problem: Who's going to bait the hooks and take the fish off the hooks once they're caught. Hammy's no outdoorsman. We've both been fishing about twice in our lives and it's been probably 35 years since the last time. My grandmother and grandfather took me to fish when I was about 9. The only thing I got out of it was that, in an attempt to get me to sit still, my grandma taught me how to cast on and make a crochet chain stitch. I didn't catch a thing (and neither did they because I wouldn't let the water still long enough to get the fish to come 'round) but I did make a bunch of yarn rings to wear on my fingers and toes. And I still know how to crochet.
Give a girl a fish and she'll eat for a day. Teach a girl to fish and she'll make you an afghan.

When I looked up the website for Nut Cave Trout Farm, I found the price list. You can pay a little extra to have them clean, gut and bone the fish. I'm all for that. But then I started thinking about the fish. Each fish. Each fish as it comes struggling, very alive, out of the water.
I just read an essay in an old issue of a Friends Journal in which the author is walking a trail after a heavy rain and finds a small fish in a rapidly disappearing puddle which she catches and holds in her hands feeling the desire to study it. She feels its distress and knows she has the power of life and death and, in releasing it into the stream, feels relief and the release of something in herself.

And I'm planning to take my kids to a trout farm to assist them in catching fish which we will, I suppose, eventually (after much hesitation and squeamishness) remove from hooks to die a slow death by suffocation. And then I will pay someone else to do the messy work of preparing the fish so that I can go home and cook it and eat it.

Obviously, I'm having some problems with this. George Fox said to wear your sword as long as you can. I think this is my sword. Or maybe I'm just trying to keep the peace. My in-laws have always been kind and patient with my "alternative" lifestyle choices. The don't understand homebirth or homeschooling or vegetarianism but they are as supportive as they know how to be (my mother-in-law, anyway. My father-in-law just avoids me as much as he can). I've gotten to the point in which I don't have to expound about all my beliefs all the time: I don't need to "make a statement" about everything. If I object to this fishing expedition, which really will be a nice family afternoon, I'll cause a great deal of tension and discord, which I don't want to do. I think my intuition is telling me to let the day unfold as it will and deal with my hypocrisy about eating fish at a later time.

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