Pesco/pollo vegetarianism

From Academic Kids

"Pesco/pollo vegetarianism", "pescetarianism", and "semi-vegetarianism" are neologisms coined to describe certain lifestyles of restricted diet. Most commonly, these include the practice of not eating certain types of meat (most commonly "red" meat such as beef, pork, lamb) while allowing others, such as seafood. There are usually no restrictions on non-flesh animal products such as dairy, eggs, or leather. Those observing such a diet often do so for health reasons although many do practice for ethical or religious reasons.



Terms for these diets arose in response to growing numbers of people (particularly in the United States) who have systematically restricted diets that do not meet the restrictions of more stringent diets such as vegetarianism or veganism. The logic of the terms is fairly simplistic: pollo is derived from the Latin for chicken, pesco or pesce from the Latin for fish (although all are actually closer to modern Italian). These prefixes are then appended to the root word vegetarian. Since a vegetarian is one who eats vegetables but restricts animal products, a pesco-vegetarian likewise eats fish and vegetables but may restrict other meats or animal products, and a pollo-vegetarian allows chicken.

"Semi-vegetarian" is even more general, but is also fairly ambiguous. Arguably any normal diet could be called semi-vegetarian. In Britain during the early 1990s, the term was demi-vegetarian (from the French word demi meaning half).

"Pescetarian" (usually pronounced as English, not Italian) is a variant of pesco-vegetarian that dates back in print to at least 1993 [1] ( As of August 2004, "pescatarian", "pescotarian", "piscatarian", and "pollotarian" can all also be found on the internet, but "pescetarian" is the most popular. "Pescavore" is also somewhat common, formed by analogy with "carnivore". "Fishetarian" was also used in print as early as 1992, but is no longer very prevalent.

Note that these are ad hoc coinages not in line with the usual utilisation of Latin roots to form new words. The root meaning "fish" is pisci- and the root meaning "chicken" is pulli-.

Terminology objections

Most objections to these new terms come from those who feel that pesco/pollo-vegetarians are misrepresenting themselves. Some fear that this may lead to the public understanding of "vegetarian" becoming skewed, and claim that already diners asking for vegetarian meals at many restaurants are offered dishes with "not very much meat" or "only seafood or chicken".

On the other hand, pesco- and pollo-vegetarians have a practical reason to ask for vegetarian food as a simple way to avoid beef and pork.


There are many possible rationales for maintaining a pesco/pollo-vegetarian diet. One is health, based on the perception that "red" meat is detrimental, perhaps due to hypercholesterolemia. Many pesco-vegetarians claim that eating certain kinds of fish raises HDL levels that protect against this condition, and also point out that some fish are a convenient source of omega-3 fatty acids.

While vegetarians and vegans sometimes claim environmental concerns as their motivation, this is less clear-cut among pesco/pollo-vegetarians. In particular, the pesco-vegetarian diet can be environmentally unfriendly if further precautions are not taken, due to the problems of overfishing, habitat damage, and by-catch. For this reason, environmentally conscious pescetarians commonly focus on eating the species that are most sustainably fished and avoid many farmed fish (e.g. salmon) as well.

For some the rationale is ethics: believing that either the treatment, or simply the killing and eating, of mass market meat animals is unethical. The justification for eating chicken or fish in this case is usually either "I have to eat some kind of meat" (see also complete protein), "chicken and/or fish are less intelligent than other animals", or in the case of pescetarians "fish are not mistreated in the same way that factory farmed animals are" or "hooked/netted fish do not suffer as much as land animals that are shot in the wild".

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