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-   -   Are alligators meat or fish? (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=84324)

snopes 14 February 2013 07:36 PM

Are alligators meat or fish?
 
Comment: My nephew just shared on Facebook a letter dated in 2010,
purportedly from the Archbishop of New Orleans to an alligator farmer, in
reply to a question as to whether alligator meat is considered seafood and
whether Catholics can eat it on Fridays during Lent. The Archbishop says
it is in this letter. As alligators are reptiles and not fish, crustaceans
or bivalves, that sounds awfully suspicious to me!

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fb...&type=1&ref=nf

Pudding Crawl 14 February 2013 07:42 PM

Ah, the capybara exemption.
If they staged some sort of ceremonial fight, an alligator could easily take a capybara and claim the coveted seafood title for itself.

crocoduck_hunter 14 February 2013 07:46 PM

I don't know about a Louisiana Bishop ruling about alligator meat being fish for purposes of Lent, but I do know that caimans and capybara have both been officially declared as fish by Bishops in South America so the precedent is there.

snopes 14 February 2013 07:48 PM

http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=478135

Quote:

An alligator is certainly not a fish, and it certainly does have meat. But the custom of abstaining from meat on Fridays is abstinence from the flesh of mammals and birds. Fish, reptiles, amphibians, insects, etc., are exempt from this. Since an alligator is a reptile, those who abstain from meat on Fridays are free to eat alligator if they wish.

crocoduck_hunter 14 February 2013 07:50 PM

Well, that answers that.

Esprise Me 14 February 2013 07:52 PM

I didn't realize keeping meatless Fridays was still a thing for Catholics. Is it like the ban on birth control, where it's still official doctrine even though nobody follows it?

snopes 14 February 2013 07:54 PM

Quote:

As alligators are reptiles and not fish, crustaceans or bivalves, that sounds awfully suspicious to me!
Did the concept of reptiles and amphibians as a class of animal distinct from fish and shellfish exist back in biblical days?

hambubba 14 February 2013 07:55 PM

you would be surprised. Even non-devout Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays. Of course, any day with seafood is a good day, especially here on the coast!

A Turtle Named Mack 14 February 2013 07:57 PM

Before our careful delineation of creatures into clades based on lineage and shared inherent features, creatures were often grouped according to such features as living habits. In particular for the purpose of fasts, 'fish' was any water-living creature. It is easy enough to see how the wholly water-living non-piscine swimming creatures like whales, dolphins, and manatees could be grouped with fish. And the shellfish make similar sense, as obligatory water dwellers. Water-habituated creatures that spend substantial time out of water, like capybaras, crocodilians, and hippopotamuses seem more problematic to us. Of course, it should be kept in mind that the priests were making decisions based on second-hand reports, so they had to rely on what they were told about the nature of the animals.

GenYus234 14 February 2013 08:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Esprise Me (Post 1713493)
I didn't realize keeping meatless Fridays was still a thing for Catholics.

It is still required during Lent at least.

hambubba 14 February 2013 08:03 PM

Also, reptiles in the Old Testament are forbidden to eat. At all. Makes you wonder where the division actually is. There's no separation of what foods to eat on certain days in the Bible, either.

They ain't never had no fried gator...

A Turtle Named Mack 14 February 2013 08:07 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by hambubba (Post 1713503)
Also, reptiles in the Old Testament are forbidden to eat. At all. Makes you wonder where the division actually is.

So are pigs, but that has not stopped Christians from eating them since at least 100 A.D.

ToadMagnet 14 February 2013 08:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Esprise Me (Post 1713493)
I didn't realize keeping meatless Fridays was still a thing for Catholics. Is it like the ban on birth control, where it's still official doctrine even though nobody follows it?

There must be some reason that practically every fast food chain suddenly has fish available on the menu starting about a week before Lent, which disappears again not longer after Easter.

But GenYus is correct in that it's still required certain times through the year. ETA: At least by Catholics. I think some Lutherans and Episcopalians adhere to the no-Friday-meat-during-Lent idea as well.

Aud 1 14 February 2013 09:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Esprise Me (Post 1713493)
I didn't realize keeping meatless Fridays was still a thing for Catholics. Is it like the ban on birth control, where it's still official doctrine even though nobody follows it?

Fish fries are a big deal around here on Fridays during Lent. There are blogs where non-catholics compare who has the best offerings in different parishes. (Maybe it is a big deal elsewhere I don't know.) They are kind of fun to go to and the quality has improved a great deal since I was a kid.

Nick Theodorakis 14 February 2013 09:40 PM

It's an ascetic practice, not an exercise in gastronomic taxonomy. It doesn't have to make sense from a cladistic viewpoint.

Nick

BrianB 15 February 2013 02:07 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pudding Crawl (Post 1713484)
Ah, the capybara exemption.

Quote:

Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter (Post 1713487)
I do know that caimans and capybara have both been officially declared as fish by Bishops in South America so the precedent is there.

Here's what Bonnie found almost four years ago.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bonnie (Post 918367)
I've never been able to find anything in the historical record (at least in English) to support the notion that the Vatican at some point for the purpose of Venezuelan Lent declared the capybara to be fish.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bonnie (Post 918848)
In the end, I'm curious about the circumstances that led to the Venezulan practice of considering capybaras (and other non-fish species) fish for purposes of Lent. Specifically, I'm interested to know whether there was a particular appeal to a European clerical body or official or whether this practice was adopted locally without obtaining consent from higher authorities.

It's a very popular tale but all of these sites just repeat the story without anything to back it up. The San Diego Zoo, for example, repeats the story but does not provide any cites and doesn't even name which pope supposedly did this.

On the other hand, considering what snopes found about alligators the story about caimans strikes me as likely. (Alas, I haven't found any useful information.)

Brian

ganzfeld 15 February 2013 02:59 AM

The more pressing question is whether or not alligators are allowed to eat human during Lent. (Don't worry. The icon isn't an alligator - it's a croc. It isn't even Catholic.)

crocoduck_hunter 15 February 2013 03:05 AM

I never said anything about a pope. I've only ever heard of South American Catholic church leaders in areas where capybara were already an important part of the local diet declaring them to be fish, I've never heard it about it being something that was supposed to have been an official ruling from the pope or anything.

Also, IIRC the practice of eating fish during Lent was established as means of helping out Catholic fishermen rather than for religious purposes.

ganzfeld 15 February 2013 03:15 AM

Uh-oh. I'm sorry to say so but that sounds like a UL. I think fasting was just fasting and fish were considered a bit less self-indulgent than meat.

Floater 15 February 2013 08:15 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Pudding Crawl (Post 1713484)
Ah, the capybara exemption.

And beavers! There's nothing like eating beaver on a Friday night.

Pudding Crawl 15 February 2013 12:07 PM

No reason to limit it just to Fridays- go pescatarian!

Gayle 15 February 2013 02:41 PM

At $20/lb, alligator defeats the purpose of lent unless you're bagging your own alligator in the wild.

Hero_Mike 15 February 2013 05:11 PM

The aspect spending a lot of money on something you eat during lent shouldn't mean that it's self-indulgent. In fact, because alligator is expensive, a person may only be able to afford a small amount of gator (while spending the same amount on food as they usually do), thus furthering that whole "fast and abstinence" aspect of food during lent.

One of my former parish priests - now passed away - commented about the "spirit" of lent vs. the "letter of the law". Basically he said that just because one is not supposed to eat meat on Fridays, one shouldn't then gorge on fish. The "fast and abstinence" aspect is that you both "fast" (one normal meal and two smaller ones which are no more than a normal meal), and "abstain" (from eating meat).

FWIW, I come from a fairly devout Catholic family and this was never a normal practice. However, my family comes from eastern Poland. Even into the 50's and early 60's, "abstaining" from meat was not uncommon because people could not afford to eat meat every day. Fish was available, but rarely fresh. It was usually pickled, and that had to be kept relatively cool. Smoked fish was a luxury. Religious dietary restrictions were far easier to follow when there wasn't a huge surplus. And I'm sure that all but the most penitent would take a practical approach and postpone their fasting day, if they just so happened to have a piece of fresh meat that would be fine on Friday but unlikely to be fresh enough to eat, the next day. With no electricity until the late 50's, that was a fairly common thing I imagine.

BrianB 16 February 2013 03:25 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by crocoduck_hunter (Post 1713617)
I never said anything about a pope. I've only ever heard of South American Catholic church leaders in areas where capybara were already an important part of the local diet declaring them to be fish, I've never heard it about it being something that was supposed to have been an official rung from the pope or anything.

While I think the unnamed 16th Century pope version is the least plausible (I think someone local would be more likely) I used it as an example because it appears to be the most popular. I know I'm being nitpicky (sorry) but the thing that interests me the most is what Bonnie said in the other thread:
Quote:

Specifically, I'm interested to know whether there was a particular appeal to a European clerical body or official or whether this practice was adopted locally without obtaining consent from higher authorities.
So, did anyone at any level in the church make such a decision? I found some indications it might have been a local priest or monk but there doesn't seem to be any credible evidence that anyone with any authority (no bishops, archbishops, or popes) declared the capybara to be a fish. Do you remember where you read it was South American church leaders who made the decision? (My search came up empty. This is the closest I can find.) No worries if you don't. It's just that I would be very interested in reading it. :)

In addition, it could have been a church decision but without any need to declare a capybara a fish. For example, I found this thread on The Straight Dope where several posters make that argument:

Quote:

Catholic Venezuelan checking in. I have hunted and eaten capybaras (chiguires) and was a seminarian there (what are the odds, huh?)

Capybaras are, in effect, large rodents, about the size of a small pig or a medium-large dog. They live most of their lives in flooded plains (esteros).

They are, most definitely, not fish nor does the Church think or established that they are fish, but there was a Papal dispensation allowing their consumption in days of abstinence.
Quote:

So an episcopal conference or an individual bishops could easily declare that capybara meat is permitted for whatever reason, without having to nonsenically declare that it is a fish for the purpose of circumventing the regulation.
Brian

overyonder 16 February 2013 09:11 AM

Fish-fry Fridays are a common thing in South Carolina, and that is year-round, and this is not for Cath's only. I don't know for certain whether it's religion-based, or just a coincidence.

OY

Hero_Mike 17 February 2013 12:20 AM

In the middle ages, when the influence and formality of the Catholic Church was at its highest, the "fasting days" where numerous and included, IIRC...
  • every Wednesday
  • every Friday
  • all of Lent
  • all of Advent (a similar 40-day period before Christmas)
  • the eve (Saturday) of major "feasts" such as Pentecost or The Assumption

That's about 150 to 200 days - I'm too lazy to do the exact math but it used to be substantial.

Some Catholics, to this day, hold themselves to a higher standard than the minimum required these days, and maintain the "fast and abstinence", or at least abstain from meat, on Fridays throughout the year. My uncle's wife and her family come from such a tradition of devotion, and abstain from meat on Friday's, year-round.

hambubba 20 February 2013 10:47 PM

Followup to the OP:

Forget the Friday fish fry, alligator is OK for Lent



Looks like a rehash of an older subject, but some new info is in there.


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