Isn't fish meat?


With the rapidly approaching lenten season, my non-catholic wife always gives me a hard time with the no-meat Friday requirement…

Why is fish allowed? What defines “meat” to us Catholics? It’s not red-meat only because we as catholics are expected to abstain from chicken too…

Her biggest claim is that if Catholics don’t think fish is meat…then what is it and why is fish o.k. but not beef or chicken?



No, fish is not meat.

Flesh from a warm blooded animal or bird is “meat”.

We abstain from **flesh **meats because Christ gave up his flesh for the life of the world.


It’s really just a convenient, but useful penance for us people in the west. If you were a vegetarian, you’d have to do something else on fridays.


Wait, so that means that Catholics have their own definition of what meat is?


We use “meat” as short hand to refer to the “short” list of things to be abstained from. it is a label not a scientific analysis of what “meat” is.

Now as to why we abstain from “meat” and not fish. It is my understanding that “meat” was rich man’s food and was associated with celebration. Fish could be acquired by fishing so even the poor could get it. During Fridays in Lent, we pay extra attention to the Sacrifice of the Cross - which occurred on a Friday. So on Friday we abstain from celebration which was associated with meat in the days the practice developed.


So we could eat snake or lizard if we were so inclined.


Um… no.

The dictionary defines “meat” as: the flesh of an animal or the contents of nuts and seeds.

The dictionary defines *flesh *as: the muscle and fat of an animal, typically excluding fish and sometimes fowl.

The church specifies which *types *of meat we are to abstain from: flesh meats of animals.

Meat from nuts and seeds are fine.

Fish are not meat.


Thanks for your input. I don’t mean to be arugumentative here, but a poor person could easily hunt too (i.e. kill a cow, chicken, elk, deer).

Is it just a question of what is most humble and simple?


it’s obviously a cultural distinction more than anything else deriving from a time when fish was a staple (hence, boring) and meat was a luxury food, reserved for feasts and special occasions. i’ve noticed a lot of older people still consider this a valid distinction (especially if they’re from a so-called “white ethnic” group – they might ask you if you want fish or meat if they’re preparing a meal for you).

if opting for fish isn’t austere enough for lent you can opt out of any animal food at all. or have a vegan meal.


Although tangential to the topic at hand, let me point out this was not the case under imperial and medieval law where it was often illegal for them to do so.

No. As I stated previously, we abstain from flesh meat on Fridays because Christ gave up his flesh for the life of the world.


I think it would be illegal in biblical times to ‘hunt’ for a cow or chicken in your neighbors herd/flock. And I doubt the poor would have the wherewithall to bring down elk or deer.

But the sea belongs to noone so anyone could fish and keep what they caught.

I always thought the fasting ‘meat’ was from warm blooded animals. So fish, reptiles, insects OK… Mammals, birds, dinosaurs NO.

Afterall: when fasting in the desert you often hear: eating only locusts and wild honey.


Thanks Evan…dinosaurs…LMBBO…

DANG!! I was hoping I could get a special dispensation for a nice tender, juicy Triceritops steak this season but I guess that would be out of the question…

Have a great day!


No, fish is not meat.>>

In the Byzantine tradition it’s considered meat, though it’s allowed during Cheesefare week (which falls this week in the Eastern Paschalion.

The details of the Great Fast and what is permitted or not has always varied from particular church to particular church.


Technically I think so, though whether it’s a suitable penance is another question, depends on the context. We could easily have swordfish steak on Fridays of Lent, but it kind of defeats the point.


Well now THAT’S a relief! :smiley:


Wouldn’t it be more of a penance to eat fried worms?:smiley:
I have heard of science teachers offer extra credit to students if they tasted them. :o YUCK!


The distinction is clear in the classical languages. In English we too say meat and fish but the culture as a whole tends to think of them (my opinion) as the same thing.

Meat = caro
Fish = piscis

Meat = carne
Fish = pesce

Meat = viande
Fish = poisson

Meat = carne
Fish = pescado



What is the “flesh” of fish called?


I hope this helps…

Jesus gave up His flesh and blood (it was warm)
for us on Friday.

So we in turn give up flesh (warm blooded) on Friday as a reminder.

He was our sacrifical Lamb.

Lamb is a warm blooded animal that we sacrifice as a reminder.

Fish are cold blooded animals that is why it is ok to eat.

Remember the feeding of the fish and the loaves of bread?

Carnivale is really

Carne = Meat

vale = goodbye

It is “Fat Tuesday”

The day before Ash Wednesday.

We say “goodbye meat”.



You can eat snails too… actually, that’s how they became popular - first among monastic people who imported the big snails to their monastry gardens, then they spread and now the French are eating them too :wink:

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