04 December 2013

Re-Thinking Pescatarianism

I'm a political vegetarian in that I am not against the eating of animals, I am against the large-scale factory production of animals for meat. It is a cruel and vicious industry of which I intend to boycott. I am also not in favor of a diet over-saturated in resource inefficiencies that large-scale meat production requires and that large-scale agriculture also employs resulting in such things as soil and water contamination, and excessive transportation and packaging. But culturally, growing up in a Chinese-American family and now living near the southern Chilean coast, I have always avoided applying my strict scruples for land-produced foodstuffs to that which is produced below the murky waters of the seas and their tributaries. I have been pescatarian for years, able to watch the entire BBC series “The Blue Planet” including its shocking documentary on the disappearing abundance of the oceans, completely agree with their reports, and still not change my diet pattern, unable to relinquish my lasting addiction to the flesh of an animal-based protein. How can I explain my hypocrisy?

These past several years of my growing consciousness on the extent of our global resource consumption have been coupled with some of the most labor-intensive activity of my life, building our house and other structures, digging garden beds, and maintaining infrastructure, turning a patch at the edge of a forest into a home. I have craved bloody steak at times and like a vampire in desperation have sought out the best sources available to satisfy the need. An artesan-caught sawfish or a bucket of muscles from the coast have been viewed as God-sends with noticeable effects in my blood; I feel that protein need satisfied in ways that my normally very nutritious and protein-filled vegetarian diet covers, but the experience of animal protein is of a different energy. To be fair, most all of our seafood splurges involve festive gatherings, visits, and celebrations. In traditional Chinese culture, the consuming of fish in particular bestows abundance. But these are all excuses to the point: my blatant lack of self-criticism a selfish denial because of a deliciously physical attachment for roasted fish and seafood. Well, no more.

A sad scene from Little Ann Lion's adventures (Creative Commons Copyright, C.M.Bushar)
It is common knowledge that the seas' abundance is rapidly depleting from over-fishing and in poor combination the dwindling species absorb increased waste-water contamination, from industries like mining, paper production and large-scale agro-business, and from urban area run-off. The seas and her tributaries are contaminated and the heavy metals carried in the sediment are embedded in the flesh of the remaining fish and of especially the filtering shellfish in her waters. We are slowly poisoned by ingesting these creatures and lately I have felt the bloating pains of this contamination, other friends developing panicking allergies or liver damage sickness. What sign am I waiting for next? I have studied this, observed it living in a fishing village for two years, experienced the phenomenon firsthand. If I must have fish and seafood, I will have to grow it myself in clean water just as we dedicate care to growing our fruits, vegetables, and herbs, to the raising of happy chickens, ducks, and honeybees.

Aquaculture is a traditional practice in many Asian countries that I have always wanted to experiment with, but have shied from doing simply because there was some other, no doubt land-based, priority. More information on a variety of aquaculture systems is now available, even articles appearing in “Mary Jane Farm” magazine, which strengthen my impulses to seek out cold-water fish species to live in our garden rainwater pond. If I am to remain a pescatarian, I want to do so consciously and respectfully to my body and to the environment, no longer discriminating between land-based and water-based life-forms, but all held to the same critical standards for health, in favor of life-giving methods. It is my personal boycott, part of my continuing transformation, not bound in suffering, but looking forward to a backyard-raised fish celebration in my future.


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