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What is a Vegetarian: Definition and Types

Updated on May 5, 2012

Vegetarian Defined

Vegetarian - n., a person who abstains from animal food, especially that from slaughtered animals, though often not eggs and dairy products.

-The Oxford Dictionary

Vegetarian Cookbook Collection

Am I a Vegetarian Fraud?

I have proudly lived the last 17 years as a vegetarian, or so I thought. In 1994, I stopped eating beef, pork and poultry. That makes me a vegetarian, right? Well, it appears I did not read the fine print. I do consume eggs and dairy (that‘s allowed), but also seafood, specifically fish, shrimp and crab. It now appears I may be a fake, only a pseudo-vegetarian. There is actually a word for folks like me - pescetarian - but who has ever heard of that? My spell check does not even recognize the term.

I was alerted to my false status when I recently joined an online vegetarian message board. As I doctored up my profile and reviewed all the rules and regulations, I came across a line that really caught my eye. It said that if I ate fish and poultry, I wasn’t really a vegetarian and shouldn’t be on this site unless I was trying to repent - I’m paraphrasing a little here. Well, I certainly don’t eat the birds, but what about the fish? Hmmm....the fish.

My Dock

Can Vegetarians Eat Seafood?

Now, the guys over at the Vegetable Forum will really black-ball me for this one. I live on the coast and have a dock on a deep-water creek in my backyard. I catch, kill and clean blue crabs in the summer. I cook them up with Old Bay seasoning, pick the meat and eat them, often with warm butter. I admit that I do feel the stab of hypocrisy when I kill the crustaceans with an ice pick. I also throw the cast net into the salty water for shrimp, pop the heads off with my fingers, and keep the remains on ice. Okay, now I’m a mass murderer. I haven’t fished since I was a child, but I do occasionally enjoy a nicely prepared tuna or grouper out at one of Charleston’s fine restaurants.

I have enjoyed my life as a “vegetarian” and it has become part of who I am and how others see me. Each year for Christmas, I get at least one new vegetarian cookbook. I always order the Vegetarian Letter B meal at Mexican restaurants. (Everyone else gets a numbered meal.) My numerous relatives serve special meatless entrees at holiday gatherings just for me. My kids accept me and understand why I won’t taste their chicken nuggets.

Living as a Vegetarian

Living as a vegetarian also comes with a price, a price I have paid - for close to two decades. I have often gone hungry at dinner parties or receptions. And then restaurant menus can be so limiting to the protein-challenged. I often fix three meals for supper - meatless for me, meat and potatoes for Dad and Sissy, and kid-friendly for the picky eater. (Now he’s another story.) I put up with the random not-so-polite inquiries about my food aversions. And it is such a challenge to get the protein in my diet - well, there is always the fish, right?

So, why don’t I just take the plunge and cut out the sea-fare? (Spell check again- seafare must not be a real word. Add hyphen - that always works.) There are several reasons. First of all, I love seafood. It is just part of living where I do - shrimp and grits are a staple in Charleston, South Carolina. I am also lazy. It is very time-consuming to read all the labels and add up the protein to make sure it’s enough. I would probably commit to a vegan diet if someone prepared all my meals for me. There, I said it - I would give up fish for a personal chef in a quick minute.

I am currently unclear of my status as a vegetarian. I am unsure of my status on the vegetarian forum I just joined. Maybe a member in good standing will read this article and report me. My feelings are a little hurt that I just don’t quite fit in. I really don’t want to be considered a wannabe or groupie. But, I also don’t hear myself saying, “No, I’m actually a pescetarian, not a vegetarian.” It seems like splitting hairs. Isn’t vegetarianism like a big umbrella for all of us meat-avoiding people? For now, when questioned, I may just have to say, “Yes, I am a vegetarian, most of the time.”

Special Thanks

A special thanks to my new Hub friend and fellow pescetarian, Marlena, for helping me stumble onto this topic.

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    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      You still qualify, ChaplinSpeaks, since you are a particular type of vegetarian. I have been a strict vegan, also a vegetarian. Now, because of advancing age, health issues and the advice of my doctor, I now consume fish and fresh (local) eggs from range-free hens. This makes me an "ovo-pescetarian." I do not contribute to the cruelty and eco-hazards of factory farming, so still believe that my lifestyle is helpful, both to me personally, to animals and the environment. It was really difficult for me to begin eating fish after so long, and I eat only certain kinds in limited amounts so I no longer feel as guilty about it. JAYE

    • profile image

      lford13 5 years ago from macclesfield

      yeh its well known that vegetarians eat no flesh rather it be livestock, poultry, fish or shellfish but I guess it can vary in what you see as vegetarian. For example my mum thought that vegetarian was where you eat no meat but you can eat poultry, fish and of course.. dairy products. I think it can do with your personal views on what you see as vegetarian and not vegetarian, if you have just gone that way in life without really thinking about it or you do a lot of research and reading about vegetarianism and vegans.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

      I do eat meat, but my diet is largely vegetable-based, so I guess that makes me a "flexitarian" according to my recent reading. I have a weakness for bacon, but despite my best efforts, the bacotarian movement really hasn't taken off. : )

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thank you for the feedback, JW, Iford, and DN! I have heard of so many different versions of "vegetarians". One friend is vegan, but eats turkey on Thanksgiving. We may need to add "selective vegetarian" to the list! DN, your love of bacon makes me think of Adam on the show Man vs. Food - have you seen it?

    • Imogen French profile image

      Imogen French 5 years ago from Southwest England

      I think people get too hung up on the name - you should eat whatever suits you and fits in with your personal beliefs, whether it includes meat, fish, dairy or none of the above, and don't worry about what you call yourself!

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Awesome advice Imogen! I try to find the humor in it all, too. The variety of names alone is pretty funny.

    • Marlena Oechsner profile image

      Marlena Oechsner 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Chaplin, Thank you for this amazing hub and the special thanks! I too have started wondering if I need to correct people when they ask if I am a vegetarian and instead say, "No, I am a pescetarian." You are so right about autocorrect not even locating the word! That made me laugh too. Thanks again...I greatly enjoy reading other people's thoughts on this subject as well.

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

      I haven't seen it, Chaplin. I'll check it out. Thanks.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      I think there are a lot of people who would fit in the "selective vegetarian" category! I've actually seen it suggested on a vegetarian website that anyone who can't go all the way into the vegetarian lifestyle should try eating vegetarian for one, two or three days a week. They would probably be healthier for doing so, even sporadically, and every day they aren't eating meat is another day they aren't contributing to the abuses of factory farming.

    • pjpitts profile image

      pjpitts 5 years ago from United States

      I think that you are a vegetarian who eats seafood. I have been a vegetarian who eats dairy and eggs for over 21 years. I don't eat meat because I couldn't kill my animal friends for food, that's how I feel. I know other vegetarians who occasionally eat fish or even beef. Other folks who are vegan don't consume any animal products at all, not even honey. I say do what is right for yourself!!

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Good points and advice from JW and pj, -thanks. I am enjoying reading these comments, as well as the ones on my Top 10 list Hub about this issue, because there are so many different viewpoints and philosophies about vegetarianism, not to mention all the different names for exactly what one does or doesn't eat.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Neat hub that has generated interesting comments--Imogene French's rules so far. :)

      Do make sure your eating meets the needs of your health. Our bodies were designed to function best with a balance of foods. Mankind has allowed society's behavior to develop some bad habits in producing food, but that doesn't mean that we as individuals can't take care and promote better societal habits for producing food.

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Point well-taken, RTalloni. Yes, we also have to weed through all the processed garbage on the grocery shelves today. Knowledge is power.

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 5 years ago

      Very informative hub. I'm afraid I'm a seafood lover. I never got into just vegetables for a diet. But for those that have, I believe you have just as much right to not as anyone else has to do. Thank you for sharing this information

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 5 years ago from Queensland Australia

      I am a vegetarian fraud too!

    • AnesaK profile image

      AnesaK 5 years ago from USA

      Ditto...we are not alone :)!

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      It is great to know that I am not alone! I feel a little un-authentic when my vegan friend is reading the Jello lable to see if there are minuscule animals bones in it. Really - something in the gelatin, I hear.

    • Marlena Oechsner profile image

      Marlena Oechsner 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Chaplin, Yes, there is something in the gelatin. Gelatin is actually made by boiling tendons (usually from pigs) and then collecting the "melted" liquid and making it into gelatin. I used to eat Jell-O, but stopped after hearing that. Really, the only thing I am denying myself then is Jell-O and marshmallows. Oh, and shredded wheat cereal. But they do make vegan marshmallows and fruit pectin is an excellent alternative to gelatin. So there are ways around it, if anyone is curious to know. But I think there are so many variations of vegetarianism that it comes down to the old saying "to each their own." Even if you say you are a vegetarian who eats everything but red meat, you are saving the lives of cows and steers and helping the environment. Every little bit helps, right?

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Sometimes I do not even want to ask about the details, but tell me, is the gelatin in the marshmallows, too? And what is in the shredded wheat?? Just when I thought I was eating so healthy.....

      Yes, every little bit helps!

    • Marlena Oechsner profile image

      Marlena Oechsner 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Yes, marshmallows are made of gelatin, and for reasons unbeknownst to me, shredded wheat cereal also contains gelatin. I know what you mean though...sometimes, I would rather not know because you do think you are eating healthy. Later on, you find out that there are strange things in your food. My latest battle has been price. I see the store brand granola bars and think that they are cheaper, but then I realize that it is because they use artificial ingredients. The more expensive ones are all natural. Conundrums...

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Marlena, yes, you pay more for healthier. Some debate going on about that on my couponing Hub yesterday - hard to find coupons on healthier foods, but can be done. Kashi has coupons for those granola bars!

    • Apryl Schwarz profile image

      Apryl Schwarz 5 years ago from Nebraska

      Very interesting hub! I agree with what most people have been saying, that you are still a vegetarian even if some forum wants to be picky about the definition. I have a love/hate relationship with meat. I could probably do without it (except for occasional bacon), except we live in an area that makes it hard to get fruits and vegetables all the time. I would survive primarily on bread, onions, and potatoes, which would not last very long. I do try to buy organic/free-range whenever possible which helps me to feel a little less guilty when eating meat.

    • Marlena Oechsner profile image

      Marlena Oechsner 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Apryl, I see you live in Nebraska and I can sympathize with you about not always having the best fruits and vegetables year-round. It is hard enough for me to find vegetarian alternatives (I live in Wisconsin). I live in a small town and have to drive at least 40 minutes to get Morningstar or Boca products, so my freezer is usually full of them. But they are higher priced than bigger cities where access is abundant. It's unfortunate to know that people can't practice their beliefs simply because of location.

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Apryl, are you able to get frozen fruits and veggies? I know, definitely not the same, but I buy frozen fruits for smoothies a lot. Love frozen spinach too.

      Marlena, I admit I am spoiled here in SC, not only by the warm weather, but my city has grocery stores on every corner. Morningstar has gotten so expensive. I buy a bunch when it goes on sale.

      You know, I did see some kind of mail order deal for a big box of organic vegetables. Probably pretty pricey, though, I imagine.

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 5 years ago from Michigan

      Great hub and I agree, eat what fits your needs and forget the rest. Although I think that like Deborah, I'm a flexitarian. I try limit my meat intake but it doesn't always happen. Congrats on your nomination and welcome to Hubpages!

    • Ruchi Urvashi profile image

      Ruchi Urvashi 5 years ago from Singapore

      Great article. I am a vegetarian and I don't eat fish. Yes, it is a personal choice and each of us need to decide it.

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 5 years ago

      Dear Chaplin ~ Maybe we shouldn't worry so much about labels. What is the reason you would like to consider yourself a vegetarian? What does that mean to you? Are you looking to fit into a group? You've got the Hubpages community right here, and I bet a good number of us eat mostly vegetarian, maybe some eggs, dairy and fish, too.

      Are you eating this way for your health or for philosophical reasons? It's all a matter of self perception, intents, goals and desires. I'm sure you don't want to feel guilty, think yourself a fraud or any such thing. Blessings, Debby

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thanks, cardelean. I am excited about the Hubnugget nomination for this article!

      Thanks for your comments, too, ruchi and Debby. A lot of people agree that you eat what you eat for your own reasons and be happy. To each his own!

      I mostly was poking a little fun at myself and at the vegetarian forum that was so exclusive in it's rules, and even at the world in general for being so preoccupied with labels.

    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 5 years ago

      Well, what do you know! A Hubnugget nomination. Congrats to you!

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thanks, Debby! I didn't want to toot my own horn, but since cardelean mentioned it.........

    • frugalfamily profile image

      Brenda Trott, M.Ed 5 years ago from Houston, TX

      Welcome to Hubpages, I've enjoyed reading through your hubs. I'm sorry those forumers tried to steal away your identity. If you think they are difficult try reading anything on a vegan forum...wow! To each his or her own..and how wonderful that you live so close to a delicious food supply!

    • Alecia Murphy profile image

      Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

      This is a very interesting hub. I can relate to being on the coast since I live in NC and love seafood as well but I'm not a vegetarian. I've thought about it, but I can't get myself excited about not enjoying a great burger or piece of bacon every now and then. But I can understand your point of view, eating less meat is good for you. Good luck and I very much enjoyed reading this hub!

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thank you, frugalfamily and Alecia. Yes, I love living on the coast and cannot imagine myself anywhere else. I don't think I could ever make it to completely vegan, so yeah, they would kick me off their forum as well! haha

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      One day last year, I also declared I wanted to be a vegan and then it turned out I couldn't do it all the time as I was surrounded by people in the house eating meat and dairy and all. And then in Oprah's show, the word veganish came in....heheheh I am that I guess. LOL Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination. To read and vote, this way http://pattyinglishms.hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub...

    • chamilj profile image

      chamilj 5 years ago from Sri Lanka

      It is very hard to be a pure Vegetarian but you are free to be selective.

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      ripplemaker - I had not heard of "veganish" and will add it to my vocabulary!

      chamilj - you are right, it is hard to avoid it all. I admit I don't try that hard sometimes. I eat the cream of broccoli soup, though I know it must be made with chicken bouillion.

    • bayoulady profile image

      bayoulady 5 years ago from Northern Louisiana,USA

      LOVE YOUR TOPIC! I had no idea that gelatinous foods were a no-no.I guess one needs to read the labels for everything.You certainly have provided food for thought.(No pun intended!)Congrats on your nomination.

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thanks, bayoulady! Yes, I could not believe it when my friend was scanning the ingredients on a little Jello box. I like your pun!

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Faceless39 5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Voted up and useful. I've been a vegetarian for 15 years, and no, it's not splitting hairs. The point of vegetarianism, in all honesty, is to do away with killing people/souls/animals for our lusts and our greed. In due respect, it's not splitting hairs, and you're not a vegetarian, but a pescatarian.

      It reminds me of a "vegan" friend who ate honey: not a vegan. Vegan = no animal products or byproducts.

      That said, you're a pescatarian, and that's something to be proud of. Truly no offense intended, and I'm glad you abstain from some of the animals. Yes, fish are animals.. :)

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thank you for your honest comment, Faceless39! I think I see a more casual attitude from vegetarians who abstain from meat more for health reasons than for the moral issue. And that makes sense - health reasons are personal, moral reasons extend outward. It has been an interesting topic to explore. Take care.

    • Faceless39 profile image

      Faceless39 5 years ago from The North Woods, USA

      Yes, absolutely. Health reasons are very different from the other reasons (moral.) Somewhere in there mine have completely blended together lol. All the best--and you know what? Who cares what you're labeled? We all know eating fish (sans mercury) is healthy brain food. I say, to each his/her own, live and let live. Thanks for an interesting article. :)

    • ChaplinSpeaks profile image
      Author

      Sarah Johnson 5 years ago from Charleston, South Carolina

      Thanks, Faceless!

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