Do Vegans Eat Fish or Fish Oil?

do vegans eat fish

Maybe you are new to the vegan diet or simply curious and asked yourself, do vegans eat fish?

No, vegans do not eat fish since it’s an animal product. Vegans seek to reduce suffering as much as possible, which includes all animals. Fish are sentient beings despite their low intelligence, meaning you cannot consume fish as a vegan. That’s because fish have a will to live and feel suffering. Thus the act of eating fish is not vegan. People who eat fish and no other animals are called pescatarian, not vegan. Avoiding fish is essential for adherence to a vegan diet.

So, why don’t vegans fish and does this include all fish? Also, what do vegans eat instead of fish? Well, that’s some of the questions you will get answered in this article.

Do Fish Feel Pain?

It’s a very common myth that fish don’t feel pain. It’s the reason fishermen will say that fish don’t have an issue with getting hooked their mouth. However, although this is a wildly accepted belief, it’s not true. Fish do in fact feel pain and it has been proven without a doubt.

Fish might not have any apparent way of expressing their pain, but their behavior suggests that they do. They won’t scream in pain or even act as extreme as we humans do. However, a study has found that exposing fish to irritating chemicals changes their behavior rapidly.

Fish exposed to irritation chemicals lost appetite and rubbed their irritated skin against the tank. Additionally, their gills started beating much faster, just as we humans experience rapid breathing. This study concluded that fish do feel pain. Thus any form of fish exploitation is inherently non-vegan.

Are There Vegans Who Eat Fish?

Do Vegans Eat Fish

No, there are no vegans who eat fish. Some might claim that they are vegan while eating fish, but that’s not the case. A person cannot be vegan and consume fish as it’s inhumane and animal exploitation. Thus anyone calling themselves vegan and eat fish would be wrong.

However, there’s another group of people who eat only fish and no other animal products. These people are called pescatarians. This group consists of people who eat fish instead of other animal products. It’s more of a diet than a lifestyle, since the aim isn’t to reduce suffering. It’s merely a diet choice.

Should Vegans Eat Fish?

Fish is often proclaimed as one of the healthiest foods out there. That’s to some degree true as it contains many health benefits. Although these are accompanied by some serious health risks.

Fish are actually quite high in heavy metals like mercury which is extremely dangerous for humans. Mercury has many negative side effects in small quantities including impaired motor skills, nausea, and vomiting. While large amounts are fatal and can quite literally make a person go insane. So, why are fish so high in mercury?

Sea plants absorb mercury which is generally due to human involvement in regards to waste etc. Nevertheless, it’s absorbed by sea plants that are then eaten by fish. Large fish are the most dangerous in regards to mercury as they have accommodated more over time. With bigger fish like sharks and bigeye tuna containing very large amounts.

This is also the reason many types of fish are not recommended for children or pregnant women. Since mercury can inhibit proper brain function and growth. Nevertheless, the same is true for adults. Thus, fish should not be eaten by vegans for both ethical and dietary reasons.

Environmental impact of fishing

Overfishing is a major environmental concern for our ecosystem. It’s the reason that many species are endangered and imbalances in the food chain. Additionally, entire aquatic habitats are destroyed from clams harvesting. Among others. These practices deplete entire seafloors of oxygen and make them inhabitable.

Practices within the fishing industry are inherently flawed as large amounts of sea life are simply scooped up. Afterward, the fish of interest are collected while others are discarded. Many fish are hurt or even killed in this process. Despite them not being the target for fishing. Thus a large number of fish lives are lost due to these practices.

Many endangered species are also killed in this process. Meaning that fish species are wiped out despite laws in place to prevent this. It also means that eating any amount or type of fish is much more harmful that one fish. Since many others are killed in the process of catching one fish.

Can Vegans Fish?

That being said, it’s possible to fish more ethically. Some fishing enthusiasts catch their own fish and eat them, thus preventing many environmental concerns. One fish at the time is not a major environmental or ecosystem concern, but it’s far from ethical. Fish are sentient and feel pain so any type of fishing is unethical from a vegan perspective. Although some methods of fishing are much better for the environment.

Nevertheless, vegans cannot fish as it harms animals. As previously discussed fish are proven to feel pain. So, even if the fish are caught and then set free afterward, it’s not a vegan activity. Since they suffer pain from being hooked and consequently pulled by the mouth.

Can vegans take fish oil?

No, vegans cannot take fish oil since it’s extracted from fish. It might be a small part of a fish, but it’s still an animal product. Therefore vegans can’t take any kind of fish oil. However, there are some vegan alternatives to fish oil. The main reason people take fish oil is for its omega-3 content. Luckily numerous vegan omega-3 products are on the market. These can give you the omega-3 you need completely animal and cruelty-free.

An example of these is Nested Natural, which is an omega-3 supplement containing no animal products. A good alternative if you need a little more omega-3 in your vegan diet.

Do Vegans Eat Fish

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Vegan Alternatives to Fish

Fish are generally recommended in the diet because of its omega-3 content. But vegans cannot eat fish, so what are some vegan alternatives to fish? Vegans need to source omega-3 from other dietary sources. At least without an omega-3 supplement. Luckily there’s plenty of vegan foods high in omega-3.

  • Chia Seeds (4,915 mg per Serving)
  • Walnuts (2,542 mg per Serving)
  • Soybeans (1,241 mg per Serving)
  • Flaxseeds (2,338 mg per Serving)

These foods are quite high in omega-3, even compared to fish. Salmon only contains 4,023 mg despite its repetition of being high in omega-3. So getting enough omega-3 in a vegan diet is easy as long as you consume any of these. Especially, considering the minimum intake of omega-3 in a healthy adult is 250–500 mg.


So, can vegans eat fish? No, vegans cannot eat fish under any circumstances as it’s an animal product. There are many ethical and environmental concerns of consuming fish, which are not vegan. Some people believe themselves to be vegan while eating fish, but that’s not the case. A vegan aims to reduce suffering to the extent possible, which means no animal exploitation. Which eating fish and fishing is definitely no matter how it’s sourced.

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