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Why is seafood not vegan?

Seafood is not considered vegan because veganism avoids the consumption and use of all animal products. This includes meat, eggs, dairy, honey, and animals derived foods like gelatin. Seafood comes from marine animals like fish, shellfish, and other sea creatures which means it does not fit within a vegan diet or lifestyle. Vegans choose to avoid seafood for ethical, environmental, and health reasons. Understanding why seafood is not vegan can help people better comprehend veganism as a whole.

What is Veganism?

Veganism is a lifestyle and diet that seeks to avoid all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty as much as realistically possible. Vegans do not consume or use animal products like meat, dairy, eggs, honey, leather, wool, silk, fur, cosmetics tested on animals, zoos, aquariums, horse races and other forms of animal entertainment.

The definition of veganism states:

“Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.”

This means vegans avoid the use of animals for food and clothing. Since seafood comes from marine animals, it does not align with vegan ethics. Vegans view sea creatures as sentient beings who deserve to live freely without human harm. They believe sea animals should not be captured, farmed or killed for human consumption.

Why Vegans Do Not Eat Seafood

There are several key reasons why vegans do not eat fish, shellfish, crustaceans and other sea creatures:


Vegans avoid seafood primarily for ethical reasons. They believe sea animals have the capacity to feel pain and suffer just like land animals. Confining and killing sentient beings is viewed as unethical. Vegans extend compassion to all species, regardless of how small or seemingly different from humans. This includes fish, lobsters, octopus, shrimp, crabs, oysters and more. Vegans view commercial fishing as cruel and inhumane.

Environmental Concerns

Overfishing is damaging fragile ocean ecosystems. Many sea creatures are captured accidentally and discarded as bycatch. Mass commercial fishing operations have led to depleted fish stocks, endangered species and negative impacts on other marine life. Vegans avoid seafood to help protect ocean environments.


Some vegans avoid seafood for potential health concerns like mercury, microplastics and other toxins that can bioaccumulate in fish and shellfish. Farm-raised seafood also come with health issues from crowded, unsanitary aquaculture environments requiring antibiotics and pesticides. There are also concerns around fish handling and storage. Many vegans feel they can meet all their nutritional needs from plant sources.


Lastly, some vegans are simply disgusted by the thought of eating fish or other creatures from the sea. They have an aversion to ingesting any animal, no matter how alien or different from land mammals. This emotional disgust response reinforces their stance against consuming seafood.

Is Seafood Meat?

Seafood is considered meat because it comes from animal sources. Meat refers to parts of an animal used for food like flesh, organs, fat, eggs or milk. So fish and shellfish are categorized as meat, not plants. Since veganism avoids all meat, seafood is not vegan.

Some key reasons seafood is classified as meat:

  • Seafood comes from the muscles or flesh of fish, crustaceans and other marine animals.
  • Sea creatures are sentient animals capable of experiencing pain and suffering.
  • Fish are high in protein, essential fatty acids and other nutrients found in animal products.
  • Aquatic animals are living creatures, not plants.
  • Both land and marine animals are made of similar tissues, cells and anatomical structures.

So while seafood has some unique attributes from land animals, it still fits in the meat category – which vegans avoid.

Common Questions About Seafood and Veganism

Many people have questions surrounding vegans and seafood consumption. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

Do vegans eat fish?

No, vegans do not eat fish or any seafood. Consuming fish goes against vegan ethics because fish are sentient animals capable of suffering.

Can vegans eat shellfish?

No, vegans avoid all types of shellfish including shrimp, lobster, crab, crayfish, mussels, oysters, scallops, clams, etc. Shellfish are animals, so they do not fit into a vegan lifestyle.

What about pescatarians and vegans?

Pescatarians eat fish and seafood while avoiding other meats. Since vegans avoid all animal products, pescatarians are not vegans. But pescatarians can reduce consumption of fish and transition towards veganism over time.

Do vegans wear pearls?

Most vegans avoid wearing pearls since oysters are killed or harmed in the process of pearl harvesting. There are some vegan alternatives like man-made synthetic pearls that do not require using oysters.

Can vegans consume algae, seaweed or kelp?

Yes, most vegans consume algae products like seaweed or kelp which are plant-based foods from the ocean. Algae are not sentient animals so they align with the vegan lifestyle. Sea vegetables provide helpful nutrients too.

What about insects like shrimp, do vegans eat those?

Shrimp and other crustaceans are considered sea animals, not insects. Vegans do not consume shrimp or any other seafood, even if they seem like insects. This comes back to avoiding exploitation of all sentient marine life.

Seafood and Veganism Summary

In summary, seafood is not vegan because it involves killing sentient animals like fish, lobsters, crabs, and shellfish. The vegan philosophy seeks to avoid harming all animals as much as realistically possible. So vegans do not consume any sea creatures or products derived from them like calamari, fish sauce, oyster sauce, shrimp paste, fish oil, shark fins, etc.

Overfishing causes environmental destruction, so avoiding seafood helps protect fragile ocean ecosystems. Health and disgust are other reasons some vegans give for not eating fish. But ethics remains the driving factor – vegans view sea animals as deserving of life free from human exploitation. With compassion toward all living beings as the goal, seafood has no place in a vegan diet or lifestyle.


Seafood is not vegan because it involves the consumption of animals that come from the sea. The vegan philosophy avoids all forms of animal exploitation for food, clothing or any other purpose as much as is practicable. Fish, shellfish, crustaceans and other sea creatures are sentient beings capable of suffering. Killing them for human food is seen as unethical by vegans.

There are also environmental concerns around depletion of fish stocks and ocean ecosystem damage from overfishing. Some vegans may avoid seafood for potential health issues or disgust factors as well. But the primary reason vegans do not eat fish, lobster, shrimp and other sea animals is because it goes against vegan ethics of avoiding harm to all animals. Vegans choose plant-based alternatives to seafood that align with their compassionate principles.