Connecticut prison to vegetarian inmate: Fish doesn’t count as meat

"They have thoughts and interests," counters PETA

Topics: Vegetarianism, Seafood, State Prisons, Connecticut, PETA, ,

A Connecticut inmate is complaining that prison officials are feeding him seafood for dinner three times a week, telling the practicing Buddhist and vegetarian that fish doesn’t count as meat.

Does fish count as meat? Plenty of seafood eaters, myself included, round themselves up to vegetarians. The term “pescaterian,” while technically more accurate, is a bit unwieldy. Buddhism, according to the Associated Press, doesn’t require that its practitioners follow a vegetarian diet — the decision to do so can be seen as part of a “Buddhist lifestyle of nonviolence” — so there are no hard and fast rules for what is and isn’t allowed.

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Jeff Kerr, an attorney for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says of course fish count: “They have thoughts. They have interests. They have a central nervous system. They are not swimming vegetables.” He did not elaborate on what those interests might be.

There’s unlikely to be a huge outpouring of sympathy for the inmate, Howard Cosby, who’s about nine years into a 19.5-year sentence for sexual assault “and other crimes.” But the definition of vegetarianism is arguably at stake here. A Correction Department spokesperson told the AP that the issue is currently under review. Kerr says several prisoners throughout the country have won similar disputes, so he doesn’t expect the matter to go to court.

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email

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