Why Isn’t Fish Considered Meat During Lent?

Why Isn't Fish Considered Meat During Lent?

Answer: Fish Aren’t Land-Based Animals

Every Friday during Lent, millions of Catholics around the world are supposed to give up meat. The practice in part stems from the fact that hundreds of years ago meat was a delicacy, eaten during times of celebrations and feasts. During Lent in general, many Christians commit to fasting, as well as giving up certain luxuries in order to replicate the account of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s journey into the desert for 40 days. In the absence of meat, many practitioners turn to fish. But why? Why is fish okay and meat isn’t? Well, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops it all comes down to which animals live on the land, and which animals live in the sea.

Fish, of course, do not live on land and therefore in a religious context are considered a different category of animal. Whether or not your palate agrees with this statement, land-based animals were and still are largely considered better tasting, hence the reason they were saved for feasts and gluttonous affairs. Citing Saint Thomas Aquinas, Mental Floss notes that “Aquinas thought fellow Catholics should abstain from eating land-locked animals because they were too darn tasty. Lent was a time for simplicity, and he suggested that everyone tone it down.” In more modern times, CBS Minnesota pointed out that while eating fish on Fridays isn’t required, it has become somewhat of a tradition in many Catholic households.

Case in point, the tradition led to the invention of one of McDonald’s most famous items: the Filet-O-Fish. According to Taste of Home, the inception of the Filet-O-Fish can be traced back to a McDonald’s franchise that opened near Cincinnati, Ohio in 1959. In the early 1960s, Cincinnati was more than 85 percent Catholic, so while Fridays were supposed to be restaurants busiest days, McDonald’s was loosing out to lent as people were adhering the practice of not eating meat. Ultimately the local franchise owner voiced this concern with McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, and a meat alternative was added to the menu. Fast forward to today, and roughly 300 million of the sandwiches are sold annually, and about a quarter of those sales are made during Lent.

Photo by Nguyen Linh on Unsplash