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During lent a Roman Catholic may not consume meat other than that of a fish. However, there are some non-fish animals that have been considered okay to consume during that time, like beaver for example. What other non-fish animals are okay for a Roman Catholic to eat during lent?

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How on earth did you happen to come across that? – David Oct 20 '12 at 11:54
The capybara is also mentioned. Should also note that the classification of beaver as fish was local to the diocese, so there might not be a general answer for all of Catholicism. – DJClayworth Oct 20 '12 at 18:00
I was under the impression that lent asks you to choose something significant to give for lent, but there is no rule that it must be meat... meat is merely a convenient acceptable option that many catholics use, but far from the only option. – Joel Coehoorn Oct 20 '12 at 23:28
@joel, that's the case for most Fridays during every season except Easter, they're supposed to be penitential and it has been a custom to give up meat on all of these Fridays. In the United States, I think every diocese requires that folks go meatless during Lent. In England, the Bishops recently required that everyone go meatless throughout the year on Fridays. Not sure how that's working out for them... – Peter Turner Oct 21 '12 at 2:27

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

Canon Law 1251 says:

Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays [...] (emphasis mine).

In other words it is to be determined by the bishops exactly what constitutes abstinence. The bishops of Quebec can simply state that beaver meat is OK to eat on days of abstinence. They don't have to declare it 'fish'. I would imagine that this is common practice in areas where fish is very hard to come by and meat is a staple food. In areas where meat is a rarity, giving it up would be little sacrifice and the rules might again be changed. As this page puts it, "when we abstain, it's not because the food is impure; we're voluntarily giving up something good, for our spiritual benefit". The exact nature of what is given up is of secondary importance.

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There is a story that barnacle geese get their name because it was thought they hatched from barnacles, and were therefore counted as fish by St Patrick. I have no idea how true this is. – TRiG Oct 20 '12 at 18:53
I'm not convinced that the words you have emphasised allow a Conference to declare something which is obviously meat as non-meat. They allow the Conference to declare something non-meat to be treated as meat and therefore abstained from. – Andrew Leach Oct 20 '12 at 19:50
I think the word "or" would imply that abstaining from the other food is an alternative to abstaining from met. In other words the Conference declares that abstinence is to abstain from "all meats except beaver meat". But I admit I am not an expert. Maybe someone out there is. – DJClayworth Oct 20 '12 at 21:09

As DJClayworth wrote, nowadays it's not a strict rule what you can eat in lent. But in Middle Ages, there were strict rules about it. All fish were allowed. But fish were not defined as today, but as "all water animals", including a beaver or a capybara. Molluscs were permitted too - thats why monks (some order had to fast for most of the year as others fasted in lent) brought Roman snails (helix pomatia) to some regions where it's not native.

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