There's an article titled Vegetarians Who Eat Fish Are Actually Onto Something which says,

I’m out besmirching Malibu’s pristine sands to decide if pescetarianism—a vegetarian diet supplemented only by fish—has more to it than guilt-free sushi. We’ve all met the vegetarian who casually mentions that he or she eats fish. Logic aside, it’s a fairly common mindset with arguments based on ethics, environmentalism, and health.

Is it true to say that in American English (where the referenced article was written), the word "vegetarian" is often used to identify people or diets which do include eating fish?

  • 1
    I've edited and reopened. It's now still a poor question (IMO, obviously) but acceptable for the site.
    – Sklivvz
    Jan 8, 2015 at 22:13
  • @Sklivvz, why is it still a poor question? Also, what's up with all the comments being deleted?
    – cnst
    Jan 8, 2015 at 22:28
  • For why I think it's poor, please follow to the Skeptics Chat. The comments were removed as obsolete as it is normal policy.
    – Sklivvz
    Jan 8, 2015 at 22:32
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    IMO the discrepancy comes from different definition of meat, which is culture dependent. For example in casual language you'd differentiate meats, poultry, fish and seafood. Even the accepted answer makes that explicit (mentioning "meat, fish or poultry"). There are also religious "definitions". For example in Catholic tradition fish are not considered "meat" in context of fasting.
    – vartec
    Jan 9, 2015 at 20:35

2 Answers 2


The Vegetarian Resource Group summarizes a survey: "of the self-identified vegetarians (32 total), 75% do not eat meat, fish or poultry, which we classify as vegetarian, while 25% do eat meat, fish or poultry."

A survey of 10,000 Americans 6% (600) of them self-reported to be vegetarian, and that 60% of the "vegetarians" reported having eaten meat within the last 24 hours.

The US department of agriculture did a similar survey of 13,000 Americans and found that "there were 334 individuals 6 y of age and older who identified themselves as vegetarians. Of these, 120 reported no meat, and 214 reported some meat (≥ 10 g meat, fish, or poultry) on either or both recall days."

These survey results somewhat conflict, with the Vegetarian Resource Group reporting only 25% of self-identified vegetarians eating meat, but with the larger surveys supporting the claim that "most" self-identified vegetarians eat meat. We should give the larger, independent studies more weight.


Between 60% - 66% of people who self identify are in fact not vegetarians as they consume all 3 types of meat on a regular basis, fish, red meat, and poultry.

Take a 2002 Times/CNN poll on the eating habits of 10,000 Americans. Six percent of the individuals surveyed said they considered themselves vegetarian. But when asked by the pollsters what they had eaten in the last 24 hours, 60% of the self-described "vegetarians" admitted that that had consumed red meat, poultry or fish the previous day

people who lie about being a vegetarian.

  • I think it is already saying that the definition as above includes "fish" separate from "meat". If you ask any Indian for a definition, they will not list fish separately. However, I don't think a dictionary is an authoritative answer here, because things change faster in the society than the dictionaries can keep up with the changes.
    – cnst
    Jan 7, 2015 at 19:15
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    I'm afraid you are over-stating/mis-stating the definition "meat" and "vegetarian" based upon a single entry to a single dictionary. Lower on that very page you linked are alternate meanings, including a medical dictionary that says "consisting primarily or wholly of vegetables and vegetable products" - which means a vegetarian, by definition, could eat a steak burger stuffed inside a chicken breast and wrapped in bacon every month and still be a vegetarian.
    – BrianH
    Jan 7, 2015 at 19:15

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