While some bishops are calling for a return to the discipline of giving up meat on Fridays, at least one writer says we should skip fish, too.
Catholic bishops in the U.K. want to reinstate year-round meatless Fridays, which sounds great to me, except for one thing: They still seem to think that fish are swimming vegetables.
Like all other animals killed for food, fish are sentient beings who value their lives. Research on fish intelligence abounds, revealing that fish use tools, tell time, sing, and have impressive long-term memories and complex social structures. Fish also create cognitive maps that allow them to navigate through vast expanses of water.
More importantly, like other animals, fish feel pain. Renowned scientist Victoria Braithwaite noted, “[T]here is as much evidence that fish feel pain and suffer as there is for birds and mammals.”
My only problem with the concept of meatless Fridays is that, in this day and age, it’s not really that great of a sacrifice. The modern diet is gravitating more toward fish and lighter fare; the American freezer is now well-stocked with Boca burgers. (As it is, my wife and I eat meat for dinner only two or three days a week. The rest of the time it’s pasta, salads and fish.) Maybe fasting on Fridays, as we do on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, would be more of a challenge and have more of an impact.
I also question how many Catholics would really follow this discipline anyway. We are mandated to make some sacrifice on Fridays already — which may be news to most in the pews — and this is the sort of thing that’s almost impossible to enforce. If the Church can’t get 70% of Catholics into the pews on Sunday, under the threat of mortal sin, how will it get them to change their diet?
Meantime, for another take, check out what Elizabeth Scalia wrote on the topic last week, over at First Things.