In this fact sheet: Vegetarians don't eat fish, Fish do feel pain, Fishing harms other wildlife, Industrial fishing is destroying our planet, You can cut out the fish, References

  • Fish do feel pain
    Fish have a nervous system and pain receptors like all other animals. Shellfish are also capable of experiencing pain. Seafood welfare considerations need to take this into account.

  • Fishing harms other wildlife
    It’s not just fish that suffer, by-catch is the incidental capture of non target species. It is a major global problem and estimated that 40% of global marine catch is by-catch with unwanted and unusable species discarded dead. Cetaceans, seals and birds and unwanted fish are affected. 

  • Industrial fishing is destroying our planet
    The fishing industry is responsible for some of the most environmentally damaging practices affecting our oceans. With many fish stocks in serious decline, one study predicted that all commercial fisheries could die out by 2050. Fish farming causes pollution, endangers wildlife and requires the use of wild caught fish to feed those being intensively reared.

  • You can cut out the fish
    Vegetarians don’t eat fish, but they can enjoy a balanced diet which easily reaches the government’s recommended five portions of fruit and vegetables every day, while also including plenty of omega 3 fats, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals.

Vegetarians don't eat fish

Fish may not appear as cute and cuddly as young lambs, however they do feel pain and they do suffer. Vegetarians don’t eat fish and they never have. Individuals who avoid meat but continue to consume fish are known as pescetarians.

Fish caught  in a net

Over the last century, the world’s annual fish catch has risen from 18 to over 90 million tonnes. 85% of this is destined for human consumption, with the remainder fed to livestock (fishmeal) amongst other uses (1).    

The UK caught 600,000 tonnes of fish and shellfish in 2011 (2).


40% of the global marine catch is by-catch with the unwanted and unusable species discarded (dead) as a result of incidental capture (3). However, reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy has included a ban on discards to take effect gradually between 2014 and 2016.

Almost 50% of fish consumption worldwide is from fish farms, known as aquaculture. Fish production is set to overtake beef, pork and poultry production in the next decade. The fishing industry harvested 154 million tons of seafood globally in 2011 (1).

By 2030, an additional 23 million tonnes of fish will be needed to maintain current levels of fish consumption and to cope with an increased world population. This will have to come from aquaculture (1).
Fishing is threatening the population of whales, dolphins and porpoises, and over-fishing has left species such as tuna, plaice, monkfish and cod in danger. Fishing also affects seals, birds, turtles, mink and otters, as well as coral reefs and aquatic plants. The world demand for fish continues to rise and the impact is worsening.   

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The Vegetarian Society of the United Kingdom Limited, Parkdale, Dunham Road, Altrincham WA14 4QG
Registered Charity No. 259358, Registered Company No. 959115 (England and Wales)

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